School council Chair Jason Gunther says they are concerned about the safety of students in the vicinity of St. John Paul II school. Their concerns stem from the lack of lights controlling traffic flow from the school grounds to 132 Avenue as well as a lack of “pedestrian infrastructure” in the area. Gunther says it will be difficult and slow for parents, students and busses.
“With the new students starting in grade 10 they will have new licenses so there will be inexperience and it’s just going to be a time issue. Especially [for] First Student with the busses because they have a schedule they want to maintain. They’re trying to get out of there safely and in a timely manner.”
Gunther brought the concerns to last week’s city council meeting in hopes of prompting some action. Grande Prairie Catholic School’s Superintendent Karl Germann met with city traffic officials on Friday and is hoping for a proactive approach but says their own traffic study numbers as well as more recent ones from the city don’t show a need for lights there, at least not yet.
“We also have to make sure that we plan for what the future might look like. Right now when the city does their analysis they continue to do traffic counts and it’s based on current traffic flows not future traffic flows. But as those traffic flows increase they’ll provide additional services to the site.”
There is currently no yellow signage up to mark the school zone, Germann said they did receive some clarity on that from the city and now know that will be put up but only on the boulevard the school is on not 132 Avenue as they had hoped. The new school is already open with just 250 students but that is expected to jump to 750 in four years and then to 1,000 kids in just six years. Germann says even now drop off and pick up time can be quite hectic.
“You’re going to see probably 100 cars trying to turn in to the site within a thirty minute time period, as well you’re going to see a number of busses. What kind of complicates it is, not right now in February but actually in September that’s going to be a main northern regional transfer hub for school busses. So currently that transfer hub exists at St. Joe’s and we’re going to break that hub in to two hubs.”
Also at that meeting with city officials Germann says he learned that a footpath from 108 street to the school will be installed over the summer and ready for students to use in the fall. Germann says the city does have a priority list which has about 15 sets of lights on it but he also acknowledged that with a $500,000 price tag for each set they might have to wait a bit.
“In the fall it’s not within their plan yet, but we are going to kind of going to continue to provide the city with data and they’re collecting their data, as well as do a little bit of lobbying for the safety of the kids. 132nd has a lot of heavy truck traffic on it as well as truck traffic and car traffic.”
Germann also says they plan to look at the potential of city bus service to the site in the future. He says that could potentially increase the number of riders on the public transit which could then be beneficial to the city and could lead to an expansion of service for them.