No safe route to Chalkville Elementary for now
BIRMINGHAM - AL —
Seven years ago, a school crossing guard was killed on the job. Federal money was approved for safer routes to Chalkville Elementary School. But a glitch may have killed the sidewalk project.
"I pray everyday for the safety of our kids to and from school. It's constant. We have close calls quite a bit," said Chalkville Elementary School Principal Rod Johnson.
Johnson is constantly thinking back to April 4, 2006. He was helping students cross Chalkville School Road."I remember there was a car that didn't see me, and at the last minute, I had to jump out of the way," he said.
The next day crossing guard Larry Bevis was hit and killed. Since then, a marker has gone up in Bevis' memory and Jefferson County deputies now work a new crosswalk.But students still have had to make their own path to school inches where five thousand cars travel a day. Parents say there's still near misses."I think it would be better if we had sidewalks. It would be a lot safer. I'm being honest with you- a kid has to step into the street to get to school," said Andrew Weldon, a parent who walks his child to and from school every day.
Sidewalks were supposed to be added over the summer between Merry Road and Park Brook Apartments, as well alongside the school through a Safe Routes to Schools grant. But the work never began."Kids deserve to be able to walk to school safely. It doesn't matter where they live," said Johnson.
The elementary school is in Commissioner Joe Knight's district. He's actively working on finding out what happened and whether the grant money is still available. At this point, he says it was a glitch between county attorneys and Roads and Transportation over utility work. He says it would've involved new gutters, regrading the road, adding curves and possibly moving utility lines, which would have made the project cost too much. But he's still trying to find a solution, as is Johnson.
"To me, this is the most important thing I do here- make our kids safe," said Johnson.
The Safe Routes to School program no longer exists. The only other federal program out there requires a 20 percent match from the municipality.
Several other local schools were awarded safe routes grant money for sidewalks including Montevallo Elementary School, Pleasant Grove Elementary and Middle Schools, Abrams Elementary School, as well as Rudd Middle School and Pinson Valley High School. Those schools were not affected by this contract issue.