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Fifth-graders petition Marysville mayor on traffic safety
"How would you like to get injured, or even die, just crossing the street to get to school?'
That's the opening line of a letter from Noel Weaver, a fifth-grader at Marysville's Mary A. Covillaud Elementary School during the recently completed school year and vice president of the school's first student council.
The blunt missive, one of 55 addressed to Marysville Mayor Bill Harris from students in two fifth-grade classes, had been part of a student council-initiated project designed to inspire a solution to a long-standing problem.
Speeding, distracted or confused motorists frequently ignore crosswalks and the presence of schoolchildren and families in them, according to teachers, staff members, administrators — and the students themselves.
G Street is a particular hazard, they say, because the intersections at 7th and 8th streets have only two-way stop signs.
"It is difficult for mothers to walk their children to school. They put their lives at risk at least four times a day," reads a letter from Miguel Sanchez. "You have to understand, these mothers are attempting to cross the road with several children at one time."
In addition to suggesting four-way stops at all intersections around the school, the writers asked for clearer signs for motorists regarding the presence of schoolchildren. Some asked for speed bumps.
"I didn't tell them about speed bumps — they came up with that," said teacher Pat Hogan, who helped organize the project along with fellow teacher Lisa Harden.
The conversation began, Hogan said, after an Early Learning Advisory Council meeting during which several parents complained about traffic safety around the school.
"The kids were so engaged with the subject because it was genuine for them," she said. "They've seen a lot of near-misses and have been scared by them."
Hogan's own experience as a crossing guard outside the school — a role that teachers and administrators at Covillaud share — has been dangerous, she said.
She and others raise hand-held stop signs in the middle of the crosswalks to give students time to get across the street.
"But people act like they're not real — they're just make-believe stop signs," Hogan said.
Public works officials once provided a white stop sign that could be set up in the middle of the road during the hour just before and after school.
"It was run over so many times — you should see it," said sixth-grade teacher Dale Van Liew. "There's tire marks on it."
At both of the G Street intersections near the school, a "School Xing" sign has been recently installed.
But in both cases, the signs are posted at the site of the crossing, a fact that does not help warn motorists ahead of time, Hogan said.
"They definitely need something here," said Theresa Ramus, who works in the school's cafeteria. Ramus crosses G Street herself to walk home. "People (drivers) don't stop long enough to look."
Unlike G Street, F — which sees the majority of pedestrian and vehicle traffic — has four-way stop signs. This helps prevent problems there, according to Principal Doug Escheman.
In the last few months of the school year, the Marysville Police Department stepped up its presence on that street, which also helped by discouraging drivers from rolling through stop signs during busy morning and afternoon hours, he said.
But it's not enough.
Escheman said he has tried to call attention to the problem for 15 years. He met with police several administrations ago, he said, but never had much success.
In spite of his outspokenness on the subject, the recent student letter-writing campaign started with the students themselves, not with him, he insists.
"This was not my idea," the principal said.
"You might not want to put up stop signs because they cost money. Maybe because you have to pay workers to do it or because it's a lot of paperwork," reads a letter to the mayor from student Jose Moscorro. "But residents from Marysville are more important than all of that stuff."
Van Liew said he hoped the letters result in some action on the part of city officials.
"It's really scary," he said of the encounters that he and others have faced trying to shepherd children across busy streets.
"We're trying so hard to protect the safety of these kids, and we'd like the city to join us," he said. "We'd like to see something done before a catastrophe happens."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.