By Kalea Hall
Schools Superintendent Vincent Colaluca is confident the traffic plan for the district’s new schools will be able to safely get parents and buses in and out.
He still wants to remind everyone to remain patient and attentive when driving through the school zones.
The grades K-2 and 3-5 buildings will open Sept. 4 with entry and exit ways for both schools and a separate area for buses. Safety is a priority, especially after two crossing guards were hit last winter.
“It will be very safe for both entities,” Colaluca said.
The school board has approved R.T. Vernal Paving and Excavating Inc. of North Lima to pave the site for $1,295,200. Colaluca said other areas, such as playgrounds, still may be worked on after the opening of the schools.
“We will definitely be functional,” Colaluca said.
Traffic will function with two entry and exit ways from Idaho Road. Lloyd Loop will be dedicated to the 3-5 building, and Lynn-Kirk Loop will be dedicated to the K-2 building. Watson Way will be an entrance and exit between the two buildings that will be specifically for buses.
There also is an entrance on Woodhurst Drive called Watson Way that goes into the K-2 building.
All entrances loop around the buildings, allowing parents to loop around if they need to drop off at both locations. Parents and buses also will be able to get to Raccoon Road by accessing Davis Drive and Burkey Road. There also will be an additional parking lot for kindergarten parents who wish to walk their children to the school.
Access to New Road also will be possible from Idaho Road, which was not possible before. Buses and parents had to use other routes to get to New Road, but on Aug. 12, Austintown Township will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for opening of the connection from Idaho Road to New Road. This should reduce traffic and prevent backups, Colaluca said.
The two schools were built through a 2.9-mill bond issue that was passed in May 2010 and with $23 million received from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The entire project was $50 million. Colaluca said the state helped to evaluate the traffic flowing in and out of the schools. The K-2 building will hold about 1,150 students, and the 3-5 building will have about 1,200 kids.
The school administrators also went to the township to ask for help in figuring out what else could be done to alleviate some of the traffic congestion along Idaho Road. Township Administrator Michael Dockry said the township suggested widening the road or putting an access lane in front of the school property, but the Mahoning County Engineer’s office said it would be best to open up Idaho Road.
Overall, opening up Idaho Road cost about $750,000. The school paid the majority of the cost, more than $440,000, and the rest came from the county commissioners, the Ohio Public Works Commission, the township and county engineer.
Colaluca said drivers will still need to be patient. He believes the accident that occurred last November when Darcy Fletcher, 44, was hit by a car outside Watson Elementary on Idaho Road was because of “human error.” Fletcher suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. In December, Kelly Rowbatham also was hit by vehicle, but sustained minor injuries.
“[Those] were two incidents where people were in a hurry and did not follow instructions,” Colaluca said. “We do continually pray for Darcy’s recovery.”
Fletcher still cannot taste or smell very well; dizziness and head pressure are some of the symptoms she experiences. She is seeing a neurologist, and she goes to physical therapy for neck problems.
“I have lived through it and everyone tells me I look good, but I have a long road ahead of me,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher is not working and is still on workers’ compensation. She hopes people will pay more attention at the new campus, and consider busing their children to school, which she believes would help reduce the traffic and the possibility of accidents.
“I do not regret the job, and I would do it again,” Fletcher said.