Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion (Left) Kelly DeSmidt, Sarah Williams and Sterling Elementary School Principal Denise Kelly hold signs depicting the School Zone's speed limit Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, outside Sterling Elementary in Sterling, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion (Left) Kelly DeSmidt, Sarah Williams and Sterling Elementary School Principal Denise Kelly hold signs depicting the School Zone's speed limit Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, outside Sterling Elementary in Sterling, Alaska.

KPBSD school staff amp up safety watch

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, August 30, 2015 11:05pm
  • News

High-speed drivers failing to obey to signs and students are a problem every year for many Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools situated on busy roads.

Sterling Principal Denise Kelly took to the side of the Sterling Highway Friday morning, homemade sign in hand, in an attempt to slow down school zone traffic. Parents Sarah Williams and Kelly DeSmidt joined in the hand waving with their own painted cardboard, frustrated with the pervasive problem.

“You name it, I’ve seen it,” DeSmidt said.

She has four students at the school and said the family has to race across the road every morning to make it safely. She is also the co-owner of Sterling Tool and Equipment Rental, directly across the highway from the school. She said she counts between five to six cars every morning blowing through the school zone.

“People oblivious to the fact that we have a school on a highway,” Kelly said. “There is a level of decency people need to have as drivers.”

Kelly and DeSmidt have frequently called the Alaska State Troopers to send patrols to monitor hasty motorists, but said it never amounts to much. Kids start heading into school around 8:25 a.m., and finish nearly 20 minutes later, Kelly said.

DeSmidt said the responders have enough time to pull over one violator, and during the stop, the area again goes unwatched. She said she believes the school should post a trooper a couple of days each week to raise awareness that it is a school zone, which happens to be on a highway.

Sterling Elementary is not the only school with a main turn off is from a major roadway. Cooper Landing School, Tustumena Elementary and Ninilchik School all have parking lots right on the Sterling Highway.

Ninilchik School Principal Jeffrey Ambrosier said he has watched drivers hitting high speeds in a 20 mile-per-hour school zone outside the school for five years. He said he sees the length of the school zone as a contributing issue.

Extending the end lines would be helpful, Ambrosier said. Drivers don’t generally slow down before the speed limit changes, they slow down as they are passing it, he said. By that time they are already in front of the building.

“Maybe that’s something I need to look into, or we need to look into as a (school) district, or we can request that I don’t know,” Ambrosier said. “I would love to see the school zone extended by another 100 feet.”

Kelly and Ambrosier said they don’t have a chance to do much self-policing. They usually stand at the doors of their schools and either way, wouldn’t have enough time to write down license plates.

Kelly said she is worried about her students that walk and bike to school. Conor and Liam Boyd bike to get to class most days, and at the end of their route, have to cross the highway.

Conor Boyd said he likes the fresh air and that he gets to pass by his friend’s house on the way to school. The two will bike until it gets too cold. In the mean time, they report having had a few run-ins on the road. This year, Conor Boyd had to stop halfway across the highway when a driver sped up as he was already crossing. He said he had to wait for a few minutes in the middle of the road until a line of cars had passed.

Conor Boyd usually doesn’t see many bad drivers, “but there are a few bozos, that go through like ‘weee,’” he said, moving his hand forward in a straight line quickly, adding “sorry about the language but it’s true.”

Kelly said the school is going to have to put flaggers out every morning to make sure the kids that cross are safe. She said she hopes people will become more aware of where they are driving, and slow down for students.


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