Home Education Westshore - SD62 Recent SD62 angst about student road safety begs review


Recent SD62 angst about student road safety begs review

Where was the collaborative forethought as schools were being built?

Saturday April 29, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 2:35 pm May 1, 2023]

Editorial by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

The lack of driver care and attention regarding students using the crosswalks near their schools in Westhills was given high-profile attention by the Sooke School District (SD62) this week.

Students and crossing guards are experiencing a safety challenge when crossing the busy West Shore Parkway at the roundabout at West Shore Parkway and Langford Parkway.

The design and markings on the roundabout requires acute driver attention at the best of times, let alone with children attempting to cross.

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West Shore Parkway roundabout, March 16, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Generally speaking, a roundabout is meant to facilitate smoother traffic flow and not require stopping. In that context, driver frustration is not surprising.

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SD62 has now added a crossing guard (yet to confirm whether paid by SD62 or the City of Langford), revealed a few days ago during complaints made in TV media about their frustration at lack of driver attention.

The elephant in the room is that the two new schools on nearby Constellation Avenue (those being PEXSISEN Elementary School and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School, with a combined student population capacity of about 1,200) had been on the drawing board and in the works for several years:

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Drive-in / drop-off at Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School (still under construction), Nov 14, 2022. [Island Social Trends]

Over the entire phase of conception, land purchase, construction and opening there was plenty of time for discussion between the school district and the City of Langford about road design and/or markings, lighting and signage.

SD62 notes that the West Shore and Langford Parkways were in place before the development of those schools got underway, and that “the volume of drivers using the Parkways has grown with it”. They are both major roads, naturally built to accommodate more traffic as the Westshills area (a 25-year build-out) and Langford overall (with long-time aims to be a major metropolis) grew.

Yesterday SD62 told Island Social Trends that the city is in charge of roads, and effectively denied having any right to tell the city what to do. Yes the municipality is responsible for roads, but the municipalities in the west shore also pay SD62 for crossing guards. They are well aware of the interplay between schools and traffic, schools and housing, schools and infrastructure.

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West Shore Parkway is a major thorough-fare near two SD62 schools on Constellation Avenue, in the Westhills area of Langford, BC. [Google map]

Update May 1 from Sooke School District 62: “Our collaboration with the City of Langford has included conversations about traffic and safer routes to school, however this particular roundabout is not just traffic from within the city limits and an example of some of that challenges that come along with rapid growth of a region.”

If nothing was done over four years to circumvent the obvious challenges of children crossing a roadway that was intended to speed up traffic flow, why react to it now as a sudden crisis? To now feign not having any room to influence the City in providing safety around schools might be cause for parents to be concerned. This is surprising for a school district that promotes collaboration at every turn.

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SD62 hires and trains crossing guards, with funds provided by each local municipality. [Crossing guard in action on Highway 14 out front of Saseenos Elementary School in Sooke, Feb 3, 2023 / Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Of course, the safety of children (and the crossing guards) is paramount. No one says otherwise. But for SD62 to definitively say that road design is up to the city and absolve itself of any responsibility is not demonstrative of the usual degree of leadership that the school district likes to claim of itself.

In this case, SD62 did not take proper advantage of the good communications that it boasts at having with all the municipalities in which there are SD62 schools. SD62 was proud to announce the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) documents with each of Langford, Colwood and Sooke. Executive-level working group collaboration between the City of Langford and SD62 was announced in March 2021.

If that MOU pathway to discussion was not used to facilitate safe routes to/from school as the new elementary and middle schools were being developed, then parents and the community should ask why. Was this a board-level decision, a staff perception of where to draw the line, and/or some lack of communication or willingness on the part of the City of Langford?

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If in fact SD62 did bring future safety concerns to the attention of the City and nothing was done, that’s another matter. But that was not the impression given this past week with SD62’s outrage instead directed at drivers.

Of course, drivers should do better. But the mismatch of roadway design and use of the crossings by students was a crisis waiting to happen.

Where parents can speak up:

That the crisis was not averted (and what appears to be an underlying disconnect between the school district and the city) is what should concern parents and the community.

In fact, in recent months it was a matter of board-level discussion as to the need to repair communications between the two (after funding for artificial turf on a school field at the upcoming new elementary school in south Langford fell through).

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It seems like SD62 has been resting on its laurels somewhat, when it comes to what they thought was seamless interaction with the City of Langford.

The next City of Langford council meeting is on Monday May 1 at 7 pm (livstream participation available). The next SD62 public board meeting on Tuesday May 23 is a forum where parents can make their concerns known (7 pm at the board office, 3143 Jacklin Road, also livestream Q&A available).

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Mary Brooke, editor, West Shore Voice News
Mary P Brooke, Editor and Publisher, Island Social Trends.

Mary P Brooke is the editor and publisher of Island Social Trends as published daily at islandsocialtrends.ca.

Mary Brooke has been covering politics, business, education and communities through a socioeconomic lens since 2008 on south Vancouver Island (previously with the print editions of West Shore Voice News, and before that both Sooke Voice News and MapleLine Magazine, before launching the fully online news portal Island Social Trends in mid-2020).

Mary’s first newspaper — a monthly business news publication — was launched in the mid-1980s; her company Brookeline Publishing House Inc has published books, newsletters and websites for organizations and businesses over the past 25 years. She holds the McGeachy Prize in Journalism from the University of Saskatchewan, back in the day when she was a stringer for the Globe and Mail. She led communications initiatives with the electric power utility in Saskatchewan when energy conservation was something new, and developed public education manuals for the provincial health department.

Ms Brooke followed and wrote extensively about the COVID pandemic during 2020-2022, and continues to follow the topic as new developments arise. She has covered Sooke School District 62 (SD62) board and committee meetings in-depth since 2014. Mary P Brooke was a trustee candidate in the SD62 Belmont Zone in October 2022. She now reports on provincial news with the BC Legislative Press Gallery.

Among other qualifications, Ms Brooke holds a health sciences B.Sc., a university Certificate in Public Relations, and an industry certificate in digital marketing.