There are two crosswalks near Pershing Elementary School, but neither of them end in a sidewalk.
One crosses Blackwell Road, and ends in a concrete slab on the side of the road. The other crosses Rock Springs Road and ends next to a mailbox. Both streets lack a substantial shoulder, forcing children and others to walk on the street.
“I haven’t received any complaints in the near past,” St. Joseph School District Director of Operations Chris Silcott said. “This is an old existing school. We do have sidewalk on our property but as soon as you leave our property there is no sidewalk.”
Silcott said there are logistical problems in building out sidewalks, because most of the existing area is surrounded by ditches, some of which are several feet deep.
“You’re looking at culverts, then you’re looking at banks and retaining walls,” Silcott said. “It’s all private property.”
St. Joseph School Board President Seth Wright said it’s up to the city to install new sidewalks, as the district is only responsible for its property.
“Our primary focus as a school district is making sure our students and staff are safe,” he said. “Anything that would impact their safety is a concern of ours.”
Wright said there is not a plan currently in place to schedule a meeting with the city to discuss the issue.
“It’s been like this for 30, 40 or 50 years,” Wright said. “I don’t know if this is a recent problem or not but I think if there was a solution we’d have to work with the city.”
“I think the City Council and the School Board have a good working relationship,” he added. “So if this was a concern of some of the local residents then I think it would be something where we could consider getting the council and the board together.”
Ricky Fulton, who said in a message he has children in the district, said he’s seen the problems with traffic flow at multiple schools.
“All of the SJSD schools that I’ve been to with my children have an issue with traffic at the beginning and end of each school day,” he said. “To the point that I worry about my children’s safety every day.”
Wright said there isn’t a current policy in place in regard to new schools and sidewalks, but that he thinks city ordinances would require sidewalks around a potential new school.
Madison Davis, a city councilman who represents the district in which the school lies, didn’t respond to an email and a phone call Tuesday.
Blackwell Road has one water drainage ditch on the south side of the road that’s several feet deep. On the opposite side, a potential sidewalk likely would have to cut through another water drainage ditch.
“I’m not aware of any recent issues or concerns that have been raised to me personally or to the board about that particular location,” Wright said. “I’ve certainly driven down that road, but I haven’t really gone there and taken a look at what it would be like to install sidewalks.”