Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Signs near schools good news for kids' safety

But one official would like even more done

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If you decree it, will they slow down?

You've seen the veiled signs being erected all over Winnipeg, near 171 elementary schools.

Once school starts in September, the maximum speed will be 30 kilometres per hour from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"What took us so long to get here?" sighed Keith Thomas, risk manager for the Manitoba School Boards Association.

We're finally getting school-safety measures that places such as Regina and Grand Forks have had for years, Thomas said Thursday.

The reduced-speed zones around schools cover up to 150 metres from the edge of the property, which includes fields and playgrounds. There will be signs warning a reduced-speed zone is ahead, signs saying you're entering the zone and signs saying you're leaving the zone.

'What took us so long to get here?'

-- Keith Thomas, risk manager for the Manitoba School Boards Association, on the school speed signs (below)

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

No, not everywhere, lamented Thomas.

Some elementary schools are on regional roads that won't be signed, and some already have traffic-calming measures, such as a four-way stop.

Thomas said he went by Inkster School, Marion School, Stanley Knowles School, École Taché and Edmund Partridge School Thursday without seeing a veiled sign anywhere. "What about middle schools and high schools?" asked Thomas.

"Accept the fact our high schoolers are going to be careless. We've seen high schoolers do crazy things," he said.

Thomas said 30 km/h might not work for high schools on busy streets, but he'd like to see at least a 40 km/h zone around high schools, whether on side streets or main roadways.

"Look at Glenlawn, a very busy location" at St. Mary's Road and Fermor Avenue, he pointed out. Grant Park, Shaftesbury and St. Paul's high schools are on Grant Avenue, Kelvin High School is on busy Academy at Stafford, St. James Collegiate is on Portage Avenue, said Thomas.

"I would look to see no more than 40 km/h," he said, and that includes both directions even if there's a median.

Why stop at weekdays during the school year? asked Thomas, who pointed out kids use school playgrounds 12 months a year, evenings included, and daycares operate in some schools during the summer.

"Would it be a good idea to say the speed limit exists all the time?" he asked.

Thomas hopes the police will be enforcing the limits once school opens.

Just because there are signs doesn't mean people will obey them, he said. Each fall, MSBA co-operates with police and CAA Manitoba to stake out three schools.

Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O'Leary said he is happy with the city's plans and received good explanations for every concern he's raised.

O'Leary learned schools surrounded by stop signs won't be signed, since traffic will be slowing down to a stop anyway.

"The bylaw is a help -- we still have to do things," O'Leary said. The reduced speeds will lessen the risk for school patrols, typically grades 5 and 6 students helping children cross streets before and after school, but schools must still be vigilant about improving safety wherever possible, he said.

"I would hope the city has some enforcement and awareness measures planned," O'Leary said.

Thomas said where school patrols are stationed are the principal's responsibility, and many schools have stationed patrols at six intersections or more.

"It will absolutely be a benefit for them," said Winnipeg Police Service Patrol Sgt. Sean Pollock, who heads a team of six police officers who work with students on school safety patrols.

"It's certainly a great step; it's a very significant reduction, obviously, that reduces stopping distances," Pollock said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2014 A2

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