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Mar 3, 2010 1:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue school officials, parents make pitch for stop signs and sidewalks

Mar 3, 2010 1:23 PM

Representatives from the East Quogue School District met with Southampton Town officials at East Quogue Elementary School on the evening of Wednesday, February 24, to pitch for new sidewalks, stop signs and other safeguards for children who walk to school.

At the Central Avenue school that evening, Southampton Town’s Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Thomas F. Neely and Deputy Highway Superintendent Bob Welch met with a group of about 15 parents, community members, teachers and administrators who said they are concerned for the safety of children who traverse nearby roads each morning and afternoon. Beth Albert, who has spearheaded a push for safer transportation to and from the elementary school in recent years and is now the chair of the school’s Safe Routes to School Committee, put on a presentation addressing what she said is a need for additional stop signs and sidewalks on the roads surrounding the school.

“It was a healthy exchange of ideas,” Principal Robert Long said of the meeting. “We really felt like the officials from the town listened to what we had to say.”

Approximately 30 of the school’s 445 students walk to school, according to Mr. Long. Buses are not provided for students who live within a half-mile radius of the building and are above kindergarten age, he said. The school houses students in kindergarten through grade six.

Mr. Long added that there are no known incidents of a child being injured while walking to or from the school.

In 2008, Ms. Albert led an effort to introduce a proposition that, if implemented, would have provided buses for all East Quogue schoolchildren. That proposition failed in a referendum that year by a margin of 428-357.

“I can handle the fact that we can’t get everybody bused,” Ms. Albert said. “But I think if we can’t bus them, we have to make things safe for them.”

Ms. Albert, whose two children attend the school, said she told the town officials at last week’s meeting that cars often speed down Old Country Road, and a lack of stop signs and sidewalks makes the area treacherous for students.

“Anybody who wants to walk or bike kind of takes their life into their hands on Old Country,” she said.

In particular, Ms. Albert said that the neighborhood could use a pair of stop signs on Old Country Road, which runs along the northern edge of the school property, at the corner where it meets Central Avenue, and two more on Lewis Road where it crosses Old Country Road. She said the stop signs would discourage cars from speeding as they cut through the neighborhood, and create points where children can cross the road more safely.

“I really like the idea of stop signs because it seems the most cost-effective,” said Ms. Albert, who lives on Vail Avenue and less than half a mile from the school, but said she does not allow her children to walk to school.

She added that many of the streets surrounding the school, including a stretch of Old Country Road, lack sidewalks, forcing children to walk along the side of the road.

Mr. Neely said he warned parents that a proposal to construct sidewalks near East Quogue Elementary School might face resistance by some residents.

“We may find that some people aren’t in favor of sidewalks, especially if it involves perhaps removing a tree that might be there or removing shrubbery that might be there,” he said.

While Mr. Neely and Mr. Welch made no commitments at the meeting, they said they would look into the possibility of adding stop signs and sidewalks to the roads near the school. They also asked the East Quogue School District to prioritize its list of traffic safety needs.

“They’ve got to get more people involved and they’ve got to get a more concise layout,” Mr. Welch said.

Both town officials also said they were impressed with the amount of research Ms. Albert and other parents conducted leading up to the meeting.

Ms. Albert said she would speak to other parents and survey the surrounding community in the coming weeks and focus the school’s list of requests. At that point, she said, she would seek another meeting with town officials. Both Mr. Neely and Mr. Welch said they would be receptive to another meeting.

“It was a healthy exchange of ideas,” Ms. Albert said of last week’s meeting. “We really felt like the officials from the town listened to what we had to say. We’re confident that there’s going to be follow-through and that they’re going to continue to communicate with us.”

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Great idea but wouldn't the construction of sidewalks be a special tax assessed to the properties effected or will the school taxes pay for the entire job? Good luck.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 8, 10 9:50 PM