TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the city of Trumann told Region 8 News Tuesday it was looking to construct sidewalks along Highway 198 near the new high school. The Arkansas State Highway Department installed school zone signs August 20th, warning motorists that students cross the road to get to school. Region 8 News wanted to know what students thought about the signs, and if they feel safe crossing the highway.
"One time I was walking on the sidewalk and there was a car coming really fast. As soon as I looked behind me, the car was right beside me, about a foot away from me and I got really scared," said Tiakya Jones, 9th grade student.
Jones said she's had 3 close calls when walking to school in the morning. She said she's been walking for 2 years.
"Anything can happen during this whole time," said Jones.
"Sometimes me and my friend will be walking right there and they'll get really close. They won't move or anything," said Savannah Kemp, 9th grader. "We need something to make it to where we won't get run over."
Superintendent Joe Waleszonia told Region 8 News most students don't walk to school. He said the school has 480 students. 40 of them walk to and from school.
"I was walking to school and a bus was in a hurry and it kind of didn't see me I suppose. It was a close call," said Dustin Sims, 11th grader.
Sims said he was nearly hit by a school bus early Tuesday morning near Willow Street. He said he has to either walk in the grass or on the shoulder of the highway. He said sidewalks need to be installed.
"It could happen to somebody else and it could actually hit them," said Sims. "It could kill them, put them in the hospital."
Waleszonia said the school district has received hundreds of calls from concerned parents. He said they want to know how students can walk to and from school safely.
"The mayor is working on getting sidewalks down to the school property and from that point, we'll try to get some sidewalks on the school property," said Waleszonia.
Waleszonia said the school district hopes to construct sidewalks sometime next year when state funding will be available. He said funding ran out when the school district applied for grant money earlier this year.
"Be sure that they're cautious. There are ways to get up the main drag. There are ways to get to the school besides walking up Main Street," said Waleszonia. "When there's a pedestrian out there, people ought to really be careful and cautious and there will be a few pedestrians out there."
According to the Trumann Police Department, some motorists have been caught speeding in excess of 60 miles an hour. That's nearly double the posted speed limit when children are present. With Region 8 cameras rolling, Assistant Police Chief Gary Henry clocked a motorist at 52 miles an hour.
"In the past it's a pretty fast road, but they have put some school speed limit signs and we do have officers out. They are enforcing that speed limit to the hill," said Waleszonia. "We just want everybody to be cautious and be aware and certainly it's important that you stay off those cell phones. Especially down the school district, pay attention to what's going on and watch out for kids."
Henry said 3 officers were on hand for the first day of school to ensure traffic operated smoothly. The new high school officially opened August 19th.
"It's extremely dangerous because the speed limits out here are 45 and further down here where the city limits are, it goes to 55. Not everybody is going the speed limit. You get somebody going 60 miles an hour, a little kid trying to cross the road or even an older kid trying to cross the road, if they're not paying attention, it doesn't give them a lot of time for error," said Henry. "I've stopped as many as 12 before in a morning. It just depends. Some days, there may not be that many. Other days, every time I pull a car over and get back in position, I'll pull another car over."
"Folks will come off the interstate and if they don't have to come down 69, if they have to come to this side of the city, the southern part, there's a lot of traffic, especially in the mornings, lunch time, afternoon," said Henry.
Henry said several students don't have the means to get to school other than walking. He said he's witnessed students walking in grass on dangerously close to cars on the highway.
"They were walking on the side of the road at the time, some of them were walking on the field, but I think it was early in the morning and the fields were real wet and grassy. A lot of them were walking on the edges of the road and we wanted to make sure people saw us out there and understood kids would be going back and forth from their homes to school and kind of be aware of that," said Henry.
According to the State Highway Department, traffic investigators are looking into a request by the city of Trumann. Walter McMillan, District Engineer, said the department is counting how many students walk to and from school and where to put a crosswalk if the city's request is approved.
McMillan said the city purchased school zone signs itself, but it was not legally allowed to install them without the department's permission.
"You just want to make the traveling public aware that they're in a school zone and what the signs are really for is to inform the travelers on the road that there's a school zone," said McMillan. "It's the safety of the students. To keep them safe and provide them a safe way to cross a road."