VINELAND — City and Cumberland County officials are considering a variety of projects that could improve safety for local students heading to and from school.
The proposals range from a new way to fund sidewalk construction to the improved use of social media, along with a public-service announcement on pedestrian safety that will be shown on the school district’s television channel and on YouTube.
The strategies were discussed recently during a meeting of school, municipal and county officials. The meeting was prompted by the recent deaths of two Vineland High School freshmen.
One of those students was 14-year-old Alexa Strittmatter, who died of injuries suffered when she was hit by two cars while crossing Main Road to get to her bus stop.
The other was Jermire Lowery, also 14, who died of injuries suffered in an automobile accident here Nov. 11.
“Of course, the safety of every student in our community is our highest priority,” Superintendent of Schools Mary Gruccio said. “Together as city and county leaders we are coming together to brainstorm solutions in regard to safeguarding the safety of pedestrians and everyone on our roads.”
But high on the priority list are better lighting and sidewalks on city streets, she said.
City Council members Anthony Fanucci and Paul Spinelli are talking with local government officials about possibly requiring developers to put money in a sidewalk fund instead of building sidewalks in outlying areas of the municipality. That money could then be used to install sidewalks in areas where they are needed the most.
City Engineer Brian Meyers said his department is working with officials at the Gloria M. Sabater Elementary School on South East Boulevard in connection with the international Safe Routes to School program. That program helps develop safe and convenient ways for children to walk or ride bicycles to and from schools, he said.
City and county officials are also discussing modifying the intersection of Main and Elmer roads, a project that has been in the planning stages for several years. The work, which includes installation of a traffic signal, will cost about $1.2 million and be completed sometime late next year.
That intersection is near where Alexa was struck by the two vehicles shortly before 7 a.m. on Oct. 30.
Another plan being discussed by city and county officials includes the installation of a traffic signal at Garden and Mill roads, which is about 1½ miles from the Thomas Wallace Middle School on Mill Road. That project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million and take up to two years to complete, city and county officials said.
As for the school district, Joseph Callavini, its transportation and registration coordinator, said safety measures for students will be printed in bold face on future bus passes. The passes will instruct students not to cross streets to get to their bus stops until their buses arrive and the drivers signal them to cross the street, he said.
The district is also giving a thorough review of its bus safety guidelines, which include regular training for bus drivers and twice-a-year safety programs for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Callavini said.
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