By Susan Tebben
New safety measures are being put in place after two crossing guards were hurt in the last month as they helped students coming to and from Austintown schools.
The safety measures are among the new facets of the school construction that is scheduled to end in May 2013.
After Kelly Rowbatham and Darcy Fletcher were both hit by cars while conducting traffic at Austintown schools, the district went to work trying to find solutions.
One came in the form of 6-foot-long telescoping poles to extend stop signs out onto the crosswalk Before anyone has to step into the street.
“Every crossing guard has them now,” said Mal Culp, supervisor of facilities and operations for the district. “They weren’t in the construction plan to begin with, but after the two crossing guards were hurt we decided to start building these.”
Another safety feature was added just last week, in the form of restriped turn lanes in front of Watson and Frank Ohl elementaries. Lanes that often were used to pass vehicles stopped at the schools are now only turn lanes.
The amount of traffic congestion at the schools is also being addressed, Culp said. “There is now a new entrance and exit for construction crews,” Culp said. “The intention is so construction crews don’t have to go onto Idaho Road, and maybe that way we can decrease traffic to help with safety issues.”
Since the construction crews stop work at 3 p.m. and school lets out at 3:30, the construction traffic would meet buses and parents picking up children on Idaho Road.
Now, a new access road called Watson Way has been put in off of Woodhurst for construction and another route was created coming out on Raccoon Road.
Idaho Road also has been improved for bus traffic. The $615,818 project extended Idaho Road through to New Road, giving buses a straighter shot to the schools. The state required $400,000 of the project funds be used for off-site infrastructure improvements that affect the school, such as improvements to roads used by construction crews and connected to the school traffic route. The other funds were gathered through grants obtained by the school district and the township, Culp said.
The Mahoning County Engineer’s Office is leading the project, but the road will not be opened until finishing touches are added.
“Because of the bus traffic, we don’t want to open the road until the sidewalks are complete,” Culp said.
Construction for the new buildings — estimated to cost $54.5 million, 53 percent of which is being paid through a May 2010, 2.9-mil bond issue and 47 percent from the state — that will house kindergarten through fifth-grade classes is “right on schedule,” Culp said, with very few inclement weather days used in the summer.
Next on the plans is demolition of the Watson and Frank Ohl elementaries in the summer, to make way for parking lots for the new buildings.