SEATTLE -- Part of your commute is getting your kids to and from school safely each day. So it’s no wonder that parents and students at Hawthorne Elementary School are concerned about the cross streets of Genessee and Cascadia in the Columbia City neighborhood.
Jason Intravartolo commutes to school each day on his bike, crossing busy street after busy street, but says, crossing the final street to get up the hill to school is sometimes the worst.
“Lots of cars, and buses, because buses are dropping kids off,” said Intravartolo.
The trip also concerns mom of two, Molly Laster.
“I'll have both kids, crossing the street, trying to wave my arms, and wave the flags” she said. “And we`ll have four or five cars speed through before one stops. I can’t imagine that I would let me kids walk by themselves, certainly not at night.”
And it has Laster thinking, isn’t that something she wants for her kids? Freedom to walk school, across the street by themselves?
Seattle’s Department of Transportation is aware of the issue, but Hawthorne isn’t on SDOT’s priority list, which means parents might be waiting years for a solution.
“Probably towards the end of that five year work plan,” said Brian Dougherty, the SDOT Safe Route to School Program Manager.
SDOT has worked with Hawthorne parents in the past. With the help of the PTA and Feet First, a nonprofit advocacy group, Hawthorne received a flashing school zone light, crossing flags and a crossing guard, paid for by the school district. This all happened between 2011 and 2013.
Parents say this has been an improvement, but just not enough.
“I do feel like the school and the PTA has been proactive and that`s why we do have the little flags,” said Laster. “But the flags are not going to solve the issues we have here.”
Like other communities across the Puget Sound, the neighborhood is growing, bringing more construction, more pedestrians and more traffic to the area. This is what concerns Wayne Rennick, who is new to the school commute with his daughter who is a kindergartner.
“I don’t want this to move up on a list when somebody gets hurt. I want us to be proactive,” said Rennick.
But accidents are part of the criteria to get on SDOT’s priority list. They also look at the current infrastructure in the area and how much money is already being spent on that specific school. But SDOT does want to address new issues and has a list of resources that families can use, besides city funding.
“When new challenges arise, we want to take a look at it, and if there aren`t specific places on our priority list, we want to point people in the direction of other resources,” said Dougherty.
Parents like Pete Intravartolo, who have had a student at Hawthorne for years, says they’ve already exercised these options and now they need the city’s help.
“Our PTA can't raise enough money to fix an intersection or a crosswalk that would start at 100 thousand dollars to put in a light,” said Intravartolo. “We can be part of the conversation and part of the energy behind it, and bring in other partners, but I think SDOT and the city needs to look at ways they can move that along with us and not having us be the starting point.”
SDOT says their hands are tied, with one hundred schools in the Seattle area, they have to disperse their time and funding, so schools like Hawthorne will just have to wait.
They do want to hear directly from parents and students who have concerns and Brian Dougherty has opened his office to your safety issues. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-684-5124. For more information on the Safe Routes to School program in Seattle, check out their website.
If your school is not in Seattle, the Safe Routes to School program is statewide and you can find contact information for your school district here.