Educators at Harmony Science Academy are preparing for the start of school with an effort to make it safer for its students to get there.

Representatives from the public charter school in Bryan have been lobbying since last year to establish a school zone on Texas Avenue.

"We're just like a little school on a big road," said Stacey Watt, the school's English as a second language coordinator and a safety team member. 

The issue will be up for discussion during Tuesday's Bryan City Council meeting. City engineers and officials from the Texas Department of Transportation have recommended a "stepped" school zone, going from the 40 mph speed limit to 30 mph, then 20 mph. 

The item was listed on the City Council's July 10 agenda, but discussion was postponed to allow staff members time to review options.

City engineers studying traffic near the school determined there is "not reasonable conformance" to the 40 mph speed limit, presenting "a heightened risk of a fatal pedestrian crash."

The report recommends a 20 mph school zone along Texas Avenue "in the immediate vicinity" of Harmony Science Academy from 7:10 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. and from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. when school is in session.

A new crosswalk at the intersection of Texas Avenue and Post Office-Twin Boulevard is an improvement, Watt said, but it does not change how fast drivers are traveling.

School spokeswoman April Crow said people have told school employees they didn't realize a school was there. A school zone would alert drivers to the presence of the school and to the possibility of people crossing the street.

Watt said watching students cross the street can be "horrifying."

"Our staff is in the parking lot every morning and every afternoon," she said. "We cannot help them across the street, and to watch that -- young kids, middle school-age kids -- to cross basically five lanes of traffic. There's not enough gap time or time for them to cross it all at one time. They have to wait at the turning-lane median. While they're standing there, you have cars on either side going 40 to 50 mph. ... They are not slowing down. We just have to sit there and watch, and just hope we're not going to see a kid get hit this year."

Watt said it's a helpless feeling to watch students crossing Texas Avenue.

"It's frightening to see a hazard to a child going on around you that you have no control over," she said

While exploring options, Watt said, the school was told an off-duty law enforcement officer or a trained crossing guard can help students cross the street only if a school zone is in place.

The agenda item for Tuesday's meeting includes seven options:

• Establish a bus stop on the west side of Texas Avenue along Post Office Street.

• Establish a school mandate prohibiting students and families from crossing Texas Avenue and introduce disciplinary actions.

• Improve the intersection of Texas Avenue and Post Office Street-Twin Boulevard.

• Install a school zone along Bywood Street and Twin Boulevard but not on Texas Avenue

• Install the requested school zone along Texas Avenue with Harmony Science Academy funding the project.

• Install a school zone along Texas Avenue with the city paying the associated costs.

• Do nothing but provide direction to the school.

The cost of installing the school zone is about $25,000. The cost to hire an off-duty law enforcement officer would be about $37,800 per year, with a per-day cost of $200.

Tuesday's meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in the Bryan Municipal Building at 300 S. Texas Ave.

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(1) comment

agnerd

Don't see why it's the city's fault that this school chose a terrible location. It sounds to me like the REAL problem is that kids are illegally j-walking. Maybe the teachers should do more to teach the students how to follow the law.

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