Province pushing to sync school and playground zones to ease parent's safety concerns
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Provincial transportation officials are clearing the road, so to speak, for synchronizing the times in which playground and school zones are in effect.
The move will see control of playground zones turned back to municipalities and comes to reduce driver confusion and address growing concerns from parents about the safety of their kids walking to and from class daily.
In 2010, city officials introduced earlier school zone times requiring motorists to slow to 30 km/h from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. But playground zones remain in control of the province and are only in effect from 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset.
"With the changing nature of schooling, there are some places where school actually goes in before the playground zone comes into effect," said Alberta Transportation spokesperson Parker Hogan.
The ministry will likely bring forward a proposal to amend the provincial Traffic Safety Act and allow municipalities to sync the zone times during the legislative session set to begin at October's end, Hogan said.
He didn't offer a specific date on when the zone times would be changed but said it would "make sense" for it to occur next fall when school resumes.
The move to change the times also comes after the tragic death of six-year-old St. Albert student Thomas Wedman, who struck and killed by a school bus while walking to class late last month. Community members said safety concerns had been raised repeatedly about the intersection where the young boy died.
In Calgary, parents like Karen Lloyd are quick to offer their own harrowing stories of near-misses during the daily scramble of students off buses, across streets and into their classrooms.
"It's quite the zoo," said the mother of eight. "You have sometimes more than 100 parents dropping their kids off in this 10-minute period because you can't have a child on school property prior to 15 minutes before the bell."
Lloyd and numerous other parents at Sam Livingston School have pushed for increased traffic safety around schools, repeatedly meeting with police and government officials as well organizing songs, poster contests and other speaking engagements to raise awareness among administrators, parents and students.
Lloyd said the province's move to change playground zone times was "fantastic" but added issues remain around driver behaviour, school design and a lack of senior students to serve as crossing guards in schools that only house kids up until Grade 4.
Calgary Ald. Andre Chabot, who has questioned the decision to have separate playground and school zone times in the past, welcomed the change and said the only critics would likely be motorists running late to the office.
"The schools start a lot earlier, a lot of kids are walking, a lot of playgrounds are directly adjacent to the schools — it just makes sense to have those two starting at the same time," Chabot said.
Sam Livingston parents previously analyzed bell times at 138 Calgary public schools and found nearly half rang before the playground zone start time.