Whether it’s a full-time crossing guard, crosswalk, traffic lights, or a volunteer, Gravenhurst council agrees that something needs to be in place on James St. before the new school year starts in September.
The idea of hiring a crossing guard was brought up by Christina Hunter, Chair of the Gravenhurst Public School (GPS) Parent Council, who is concerned that the street, which many of the 256 students use to get to and from school, isn’t safe. She noted that only 20 students take the bus.
It’s up to the Town of Gravenhurst to hire crossing guards, not the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB).
Hunter told Gravenhurst council on June 21 that Bracebridge has three crossing guards, while Huntsville has one per school zone. Currently, according to Kristen Ford-Bickers, the town’s Manager of By-Law Services, Gravenhurst has one full-time crossing guard for Muskoka Beechgrove Public School.
Samantha Bigley, who works for the Bracebridge OPP, is a member of the GPS parent council and frequently patrols the area surrounding the school. In a letter of support sent to Hunter, she writes that while she hasn’t written any tickets in that area, James St. is “heavily used” by all types of vehicles during school hours. Bigley added that corners make for more of a risk as well because it leaves drivers with less time to react. “Especially if they’re travelling too quickly,” she said.
“Occasionally I have radar on board and can 100-percent say that if the cruiser was not present, the speeds would be higher as I watch the travelling speed quickly decrease when they spot my car,” Bigley said in her letter.
Other ideas floated involved installing a crosswalk or lights but the problem with all the ideas brought forward is that none are included in this year’s budget. Andrew Stacey, the town’s Director of Infrastructure, estimated that installing a set of lights in the affected area would cost around $500,000.
“The most reasonable and cost-effective approach would be to retain the services of a crossing guard,” Stacey said.
Until then, Hunter said she knows of two people who have stepped forward to volunteer until a full-time crossing guard can be hired.
“There absolutely has to be something there,” said Coun. Penny Varney, who represents the ward that GPS is in. “Kids use that route in the summertime, too, and other people do as well.”
Kelly asked her to bring a motion forward at the next council meeting so they can discuss next steps and attempt to have something in place by September. In the meantime, Kelly said he will reach out to TLDSB Trustee Louise Clodd, who represents Gravenhurst. He said he’s curious if the school board is able to support them by sharing the cost of hiring a crossing guard.
“We all care about the kids and want to make sure they’re safe,” Kelly said.