Messenger photos by Whitney Wilson Coy
Columbus Councilman Hearcel Craig, Greater Hilltop Area Commission Chairman Gary Baker, II and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman flip the switch on the new safety lights installed on Mound Street in front on West Mound Elementary.
|Mayor Coleman tells passing vehicles on Mound Street to “Slow Down” as they pass the flashing lights that signify a school zone.”|
Students at Columbus City Schools will now have a safer walk to school, and just in time to strap on their backpacks and head in.
On Aug. 27, just two days shy of the start of the school year, Mayor Michael Coleman and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene Harris, along with various community leaders, met at West Mound Elementary School to turn on the newly installed safety lights on Mound Street.
The completion of the warning lights signifies the near end of a $2 million upgrade program that began in 2000.
West Mound is number 102 out of 106 schools that were slated to have upgrades to crosswalks, safety lights and signs at the beginning of the project.
Hilltonia Middle School, also on West Mound Street, is currently in the process of being upgraded, and West Broad Elementary, Linden Elementary and Franklinton Elementary are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“I want the drivers of the City of Columbus to understand that these 56,000 students will be walking around the City of Columbus in mass numbers. We have to protect our children,” said Coleman.
Coleman warned residents that beginning Aug. 29, the Columbus Division of Police Motorcycle Unit will begin strict enforcement of posted speed limits in school zones.
Posted speed limits are enforced in schools zones during the hours that children are being dropped off and picked up from school.
Last year, Columbus officers wrote more than 6,700 citations and gave more than 450 warnings in school zones during restricted hours.
“We want to make sure that they [the children] grow up safe,” said Coleman.
Harris gave parents and drivers tips on how to help ensure the safety of Columbus children.
“Leave early enough so that if you are stopped behind a bus you won’t be impatient because you aren’t going to be late,” she said.
Harris added that all parents have a responsibility to talk with their children and help them understand safety.
Council member Hearcel Craig also spoke about the importance of keeping children out of harm’s way.
“These sidewalks, crosswalks and signals will allow our most cherished resource, our children, to walk to school so they can get an education,” he said.
Coleman urged all in attendance to realize that no matter how many safety measures are in use, the safety of kids on the street lies solely in the hands of drivers.
“You can’t put it on other people, he said. “You have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I will not speed on the way to work.’”