SANDPOINT — A collaborative project between the City of Sandpoint and Washington Elementary School students addressing intersection safety concerns near the school has won recognition from the Idaho Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.
The award, which was one of three Innovation Idea Awards presented by LHTAC at the 2019 Association of Idaho Cities annual conference in Boise, was announced by the city in a press release Monday.
Noting unsafe crosswalk conditions adjacent to their school, the second-grade students at Washington Elementary decided to address the problem as part of a “Design for Change” class project. The students wrote a letter sharing their concerns to the Sandpoint City Council in March 2018 and submitted a video highlighting their safety concerns, including cars parked in crosswalks, students not using crosswalks and not listening to crossing guards, snow blocking pedestrian ramps and crosswalks. Working closely with Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon and their teacher, Charlene Hitchcock, the students developed a number of ideas for resolving the situation, which were then presented to city staff for consideration.
As a result of the students work, part of the school’s Design for Change program, two gates were added at intersections along Erie Street to make it a one-way street during school pick-up and drop-off times. City officials noted in the press release that cars can only travel west on Erie between Lavina and Boyer during these times and designated lanes for vehicle loading/unloading improve visibility of pedestrians. When deployed, the temporary gates on either side of the school zone slow vehicles and effectively reduce the volume of through-traffic.
“We appreciate the young students at Washington Elementary recognizing an important safety issue and engaging with the city to identify an innovative solution that is good for our whole community,” Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad said. “We believe this project is worthy of recognition and LHTAC agreed.”
Sandpoint officials shared their thanks with, and congratulations to, these innovative young citizens, who have committed early in their lives to active involvement for improving our community.
The now-third graders were recently immortalized on one of the gates in front of Washington Elementary in recognition of their efforts. Each of their photos and names were added to a colorful, permanent metal sign and the words “We had a dream — for safer crosswalks” inscribed on the sign.
As second graders in the school’s Design for Change elective with Hitchcock, the group of about 20 students realized there were several safety concerns in the intersection in front of Washington Elementary. They decided to tackle the problem and find real solutions.
The kids wrote a letter, on a very large sheet of paper, to the city of Sandpoint regarding their concerns over safety in the intersections outside their school. The following week, in March 2018, the group took their concerns to City Council, explaining the safety issues and possible solutions to council members. Safety concerns, which were captured on video by the kids, included cars parked in crosswalks, students and parents not using crosswalks and not listening to crossing guards, snow blocking ramps and crosswalks, faded paint, cars parked illegally and vehicles speeding.