Parents Look to Close School Road

November 21, 2006 - Posted at 6:15 p.m. CST

NEWPORT, AR -- A roadway through a Region 8 school continues to be the focus of debate.  It's been an issue for more than 15 years...Wilkerson Drive and the Newport School District.

Wilkerson Drive is a convenient way to get across the town of Newport, however it also cuts right down the middle of Greyhound country.  The school is hoping the city will close the road that runs through the school in order to make sure students are safe during the school day.

"My daughter is in Junior High and she crosses the street four times a day," said parent Suzanne Goyne. For parents like Goyne, the daily traffic on the road and students crossing the street is a scary combination.

"Elementary students cross the road.  They are as young as 4th grade and to me that is a safety concern," said Goyne.

While no one has been seriously hurt, parents and school officials are pushing to have the road closed.

"We need to look at the safety of the students.  That should be first of foremost.  We don't want to look back and say if we would have done something then this tragedy wouldn't have happened," said Goyne.

The school wants two Velcro gates installed to close the campus off during school hours. However, the city feels the speed humps or raised crosswalks are a more practical solution because they would slow traffic throughout the day not just during school

"They are permanent, they will be there 24/7, seven days a week, everyday of the year," said Newport Police Chief Michael Scudder.

In addition to slowing down traffic, the crosswalks will elevate pedestrians making them more easily seen. Plus, traffic on the road should decrease because some drivers will take a different route to avoid the elevated crosswalks. More importantly Chief Scudder believes the gates could prove to be more dangerous.

"If they go around the gates they are going to be next to the building and if a student comes around the corner that is going to be more hazardous," said Chief Scudder.

According to the city by-laws, the police chief has the final decision and that's why plans are being made to begin installing the crosswalks. Chief Scudder said that if everything goes according to plan, construction on the raised crosswalks could begin during the Christmas break.

The school is also concerned about the accessibility of the campus to people driving by.  However, according to Chief Scudder, gating off the campus only makes it more difficult for the police to patrol that area.