Chatham Mom: Roads Unsafe for Walking
As pedestrian safety becomes an increasingly important issue in town, one mother brings her concerns to the Board of Education.
Peter Daquila, the business administrator for the school district, said he received a letter, addressed to the school board, from a parent who lives on Avon Court with a child who will attend Chatham High School in the fall.
According to Daquila, the woman wrote in her letter that her son has to walk along River Road to Southern Boulevard to reach Chatham High School each day. The route is known locally as "Snake Hill" because of the sharp turns and steep incline. It has no sidewalks.
The district provides free buses for high school students who live more than 2.5 miles from Chatham High. Families within that radius can pay for subscription busing. Avon Court is about 1.6 miles from the high school.
Daquila declined to identify the woman by name, but said "her main statement is that from where they are, there are no sidewalks on River Road, nor no sidewalk on the end of Southern Boulevard" between River Road and Fairmount Avenue.
"She does not feel [it is] that safe for her son to walk to school. ... She was asking if the district, or the school, or the township would provide transportation at no cost," Daquila said.
The situation is not unique. "The district has other students in that area, and does not provide transportation [other than] subscription busing, if they so choose," Daquila said.
Parents often feel it is unsafe for their children to walk due to several factors, including unsafe motor vehicle traffic and lack of sidewalks and crosswalks.
Janet Roffina lives on Dellwood Avenue in Chatham Township. A mother of seven, her youngest is about to start Chatham Middle School. "There is no way for my child to walk or ride a bike to the middle school," she said. "We've gone through this with six other kids and we've ended up driving them. ...
"There are only sidewalks on the west side of Lafayette. We live on the east side. So my daughter would have to run across the street ... or she would have to walk down the east side of Lafayette Avenue," Roffina said.
"Our children and other walks and bikers [have] a right to walk safely to school," Sarah Fechner, a township resident who sits on the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Open Space committees, said. She also said sidewalks and safe walking paths increase property values. "That's where people want to live."
Daquila offered his apologies to the woman who contacted the board. According to the state, he said, "Boards of Education are not required by law to provide busing, it says. However, at their discretion and expense, they can provide transportation through subscription busing."
"We have continues to work with township officials on the Safe Routes to School program," Superintendent Michael LaSusa said. "It's not as though we don't take seriously the issue of safety to and from school. But in this case, this would represent a departure from our policy and the way we've treated other students [in similar situations]."
Safe Routes to School recently recognized Chatham Township, Chatham Borough and the School District of the Chathams for their efforts to _raise public awareness for pedestrian safety_ through the SRTS program.