School district demands county to act on dangerous gravel road

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: Haley Fitzgerald)
(Source: Haley Fitzgerald)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - After several reported wrecks involving students on County Road 431 near Valley View High School, the school district is desperately wanting a solution for the gravel road.

According to Dr. Haley Fitzgerald, a grant writer for the Valley View School District, at least nine wrecks have taken place on CR 431 in only two years.

"It is a highly-traveled road where we have people running into the ditch all the time," said Fitzgerald. "There are 575 students at the high school and a large number comes down this road twice a day with school buses. We are just really concerned about keeping the students safe."

Fitzgerald said some issues with the road includes the gravel being too dry making it difficult for fast moving cars to control their vehicles.

"They end up fishtailing after turning the corner too fast and then in the ditch they go," said Fitzgerald. "The dust is also an issue. There have been instances where children have rear-ended each other because they couldn't see 15 feet in front of their vehicle because of the dust."

Superintendent Bryan Russell agreed, saying they need students to slow down.

"Students have trouble driving on the gravel road," said Russell. "They drive too fast because they are students."

Fitzgerald said this fault has been addressed in the school's curriculum.

"We have stressed the importance of driving safely on this road in our driver's education course," said Fitzgerald. "There is only so much you can do to get them to slow down."

Fitzgerald found herself being in one of the nine wrecks reported so far.

"The student was coming around the corner too fast, he fishtailed and hit my vehicle and then he drove into the ditch," said Fitzgerald. "The first thing that I could think about was the safety of that student."

Both Fitzgerald and Russell said this is not the first time they have tried bring attention to the problems of the road.

"Initially, I met with city planners to get the road paved to help with the traffic we have after and before school," said Russell. "Then we started noticing a lot of wrecks so it's been about four years of us constantly asking the county to do something about this."

Fitzgerald said this cry out for help is not bashing the county whatsoever but it is time to do more for the safety of their school kids.

"The county has done great with this road," said Fitzgerald. "It is graded, it is a well-maintained road but unfortunately that is not going to fix the problem."

The school district has even done their own research into the issue.

"All of the reported wrecks on CR431 involved Valley View students," said Fitzgerald. "That road is paved to the edge of the city limits so the stretch that needs to be paved is only 1 to 1.5 at most. Valley View also pays the highest property taxes in the county and we are the only school who does not have all access roads leading to the school paved. "

Russell said to pave the road is a long overdue solution.

"We really feel like it is time the number of accidents continues to increase and the severity," said Russell. "We just hate to see the students or anyone injured for the matter. It will just increase the safety all around for those who travel that road."

"Our superintendent, school board, private citizens have all expressed concerns multiple times," said Fitzgerald. "Unfortunately, until this road gets paved nothing is going to stop this wreck and our fear is that a child is going to get killed."

Both Fitzgerald and Russell added that though this has been a struggled having the concerns addressed by the county, they are very appreciative of the law enforcement that has stepped up to help.

"The Craighead County Sheriff's Officer and Jonesboro Police Department do an excellent job patrolling for us even though they can't be there all the time," said Fitzgerald. "They are outstanding with helping the time they can spend out here getting kids to slow down."

While the school district continues to wait on the county to act, Russell stresses everyone to drive slowly and keep enough space between vehicles.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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