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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.

As , and the turn their attention to pedestrian and traffic safety, one township mother faces an issue shared by many.

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 in the fall.

According to Daquila, the woman wrote in her letter that her son has to walk along to reach 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.

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 . "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 _ through the SRTS program.

middle schooler July 28, 2012 at 12:07 AM
yep...ridiculous. Do we really need so many turf fields? turf vs. safety...many in chatham would sadly pick turf.
Yelowhownd August 01, 2012 at 02:08 PM
The sad part is that there is open space on the side of Snake Hill with plenty of room for a walkway. I grew up just about 2 miles away from the high school and walked or biked everyday until I got my license. It wasn't nearly as treacherous as it is now. I drive by the high school in the morning and there seems to be a mad dash to drop their kids off, I've likened it to a NASCAR pit stop. Add bicyclists and other commuters trying to get places and it makes for a bad situation. It's also amazing how resistant some residents can be to sidewalks being put in. Remember when it was proposed to have sidewalks installed near Milton or over in Summit? There is no reason why there shouldn't be sidewalks along River Road or on Snake Hill.
GarageRock August 02, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Sidewalks are not for cycling, and in fact are a dangerous place to ride a bike.
Joe August 22, 2012 at 02:01 PM
The Open Space Advisory Committee of Chatham Township is working with others to develop more walkable ways up Snake Hill, either alongside or through the Township Open Space that "Yehowhownd" is referring to. Would anyone interested please contact the Open Space Committee (via the Township Municipal Building, or Joe Basralian personally--listed on Whitepages) or attend the beginning of the Open Space Committee meeting this Monday, 8/27, at 7:30pm in the Township Municipal Building (front entrance and take a left -- windowed conference room across from the main offices). The Open Space Committee meets the fourth Monday of every month in the same spot, at the same time. A couple of our members are working on the Safe Routes to School initiative, too.
heretoolong August 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Is Lafayette really the only way to the middle school from Dellwood? Why can't they ride down Washington Avenue and then down Main Street? There are several crossing guards on that route. Or down Washington and across Chatham Street? Again, crossing guards.

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