Review finds students’ walk zones safe

Review finds students’ walk zones safe

SMITHFIELD – Following parents’ concerns for students’ safety in the schools’ walk zones, the Smithfield School Committee received the first “formal” safe walk zone assessment since 2005.

Smithfield Police Sergeant Kevin Proulx conducted a reassessment of walk zones for students at Gallagher Middle School and Smithfield High School, personally walking and inspecting five “zones,” as well as looking at traffic collision data from September 2010 to August 2018.

Proulx said there were no indications that the roads have become less safe since the previous assessment.

The zones included all streets in the Indian Run Trail area, all streets off Tunmore Road, both sides of Austin Avenue from Route 44 up to, but not including, Appletown Road, both sides of Pleasant View Avenue from Route 44 to the middle and high school, and both sides of Pleasant View Avenue from Log Road to the middle and high schools.

Smithfield district police require middle and high school students within two miles, and elementary students within a mile, of the school to walk or get a ride. The policy affects approximately 300 students.

In October 2018, Rick and Joanna Presciutti raised concerns to the School Committee regarding their children walking more than a half-hour from the middle school to the Greenville Library after school.

Upon examination, Proulx found that section of road to have 13 collisions in the past eight years during times before and after school, with one injury involving pedestrians or bicycles.

He also said the school speed limit signs are fully operational and regularly maintained with crossing guards at seven crosswalks daily to assist students arriving at school.

Of all areas reviewed, Pleasant View Avenue from Log Road to the middle and high school had the most accidents, 67, from 2010 to 2018 during times before and after school.

Proulx did not report any “traffic calming measures” in the area during that time period.

“The numerous traffic calming measures taken in these zones have contributed to overall vehicular and pedestrian safety of these areas,” Proulx said.

Over the years, intersections at Indian Run Trail and Tunmore Road were re-engineered, and stop signs were added at many intersections.

Proulx said the Traffic Safety Commission is actively involved in finding long-term solutions to resident complaints and safety concerns. He said the commission, not the police, makes decisions for new vehicular or pedestrian traffic patterns.

School Committee member Cheryl Hirst-Hodgins said the report was important, but the district should continue to train students on safety to prevent any accidents.

“I just worry about kids walking and paying attention,” Hirst-Hodgins said.

In other business, the School Committee received approval from Town Engineer Kevin Cleary, regarding a request for proposals for baseball field improvements.

The Town Council requested Cleary’s assistance in the RFP as part of the approval for the School Committee to go out to bid. Supt. Judy Paolucci said the committee decided to go out to bid to find the lowest cost for the project.

The baseball field improvements, which include new dugouts and fencing, are the first step in a 10-year athletics field capital improvement plan created by the Smithfield Athletic Facilities Committee.

“Our athletic capital committee understands that planning must be combined with action, and biting off one project each year will lead us closer to our goal of improving athletic facilities,” Paolucci said.

Paolucci said the backstop fencing for the field is on the capital project list for the Rhode Island Department of Education. She said many projects on the list extend beyond the financial ability of the town but are included on the RIDE list for potential reimbursement.

She said it is “vitally important for the district to include any and all potential projects, since only those listed may be reimbursed.”

The baseball boosters club agreed to contribute $10,000 to replace the dugout. The deadline for completion is April 2019.

Also at the meeting, committee member Richard Iannitelli requested an update on the basketball courts in front of McCabe Elementary School, which were slated for completion in early summer 2018, but are not finished due to a crack in the foundation.

“We don’t have 100 percent control of what goes into a project. It’s our job to keep an eye on things to make sure the final project comes out,” Paolucci said.