by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor
Over the past month, motorists have been lawfully speeding through Park Hill school zones at 40 miles an hour while elementary school age children have been heading to school.
Traffic signs warning motorists to slow down to 25 miles per hour in the school zone do not reflect the actual time children are either entering or leaving school grounds for summer school.
This creates a potentially dangerous situation for the thousands of elementary school-aged children who are walking or being bussed to and from the elementary school.
For students attending summer school at Line Creek Elementary School and eight other elementary schools in the district, summer school starts at 7:30 a.m. That's an hour and 15 minutes earlier than the typical school year.
According to traffic signs posted in the school zones, motorists are required to reduce their speed to 25 miles per hour during the hours of 7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. By that time, summer school is already in session.
On Waukomis Drive, children have been heading to Line Creek Elementary School at a time when motorists are not heeding precaution to slow down.
In the afternoon, elementary school age children are dismissed at 2:30 p.m. But once again, traffic signs fail to accurately reflect the time period children are heading home from summer school. Traffic signs in the school zone require motorists to reduce their speed to 25 miles per hour between the hours of 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
So children between the ages of 5-11 are heading home 30 minutes before motorists are being instructed to slow down.
Sgt. Jerin Almond with the Platte County Sheriff's Department said while summer school is in session, motorists must comply with all traffic signs instructing motorists to slow down in the school zones.
Sgt. Almond said motorists can receive a speeding ticket in a school zone, but if the hours listed are inaccurate the motorist could potentially get out of the speeding ticket.
School officials appear to have been asleep at the wheel, apparently failing to notice that the modified summer school times have put students at risk from traffic speeds.
When The Landmark brought this safety concern to their attention Tuesday, school officials indicated they were unaware of the situation.
“Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Safety of our students, no doubt is very, very important to us,” said Boon Lee, president of the Park Hill Board of Education.
SCHOOL START TIME
Another concern some parents have expressed is the actual time summer school starts for their elementary age children. Studies suggest that sleep is critical for young children. With the summer sun setting late and the bus arriving at 6:40 a.m. children ages 5-11 may not be getting enough sleep.
Damiana Sarro of Kansas City said getting her five-year-old up at 6 a.m. to be at school at 7:30 a.m. has been difficult.
“I hear from pediatricians and experts that sleep is critical for young children. I would prefer that school officials select a more appropriate time that goes with that research,” Sarro said.
She pointed out that younger children need more assistance in the morning and after school than older children. Elementary school aged children often need help getting dressed, putting shoes on their feet, and brushing their hair. Parents also need to prepare breakfast for young children, pack their school lunch, and ensure the child performs tasks such as brushing their teeth, etc. All these tasks take more time, she said.
Unlike older students who may supervise themselves for a short period after school, parents of elementary school age children need to be home at 2:45 p.m. to get their child off the bus.
When asked if the district plans on permanently forcing elementary school kids to begin their school day before middle and high school age children, Lee responded, “No decision has been made to future schedules for elementary, middle and high schools.”