Before the former Morrisburg Collegiate Institute is transformed into a new municipal and health centre, it and the surrounding area will become a construction zone.
In preparation for the upcoming construction, municipal officials have had to re-locate the crossing guard on Ottawa Street and divert those students who walk to school from the east, away from the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic parking lot.
“We don’t want the kids walking through a construction site,” said Stephen McDonald, South Dundas chief administrative officer. According to he and South Dundas clerk Brenda Brunt, the municipality has been trying to work with the school to choose the best route and to inform students and parents of the needed changes since about June.
The new route the municipality has chosen for students has gotten a lot of attention and raised concerns among some of the parents whose children are now crossing Ottawa Street at Second Street.
They are concerned with the danger of having the children walk along one of the town’s busiest roadways along a sidewalk that is nothing more than two painted lines from the corner to Trillium Street.
Second street is the street which includes the school bus loading zone for Morrisburg Public School, is used by many parents who drop their children off at school, and is also home to the Morrisburg arena, Dundas County Food Bank and the office of the South Dundas fire chief.
The painted lines that denote a sidewalk run between Second Street and the length of the Morrisburg Arena parking lot.
Parents are especially worried about how the new route will be maintained during the winter months.
According to Brunt, this route was not the municipality’s first choice, explaining that they wanted to leave the crossing guard where she was, at the intersection of Alice Street and Ottawa Street. Students would enter the school yard there, through a gate that is unlocked only during the time when the crossing guard is on duty.
However, the board would not agree with this walking route.
Brunt says the reason she was given by the board is that the board would be required to install a sidewalk for the students.
School board officials were contacted for comment on the matter but declined saying only that this entire matter is the municipality’s responsibility.
“This was all done in consultation with the Upper Canada District School Board and the school’s principal,” said Brunt.
Nevertheless, the municipality has implemented a number of changes to help ease the transition to a new walking route for area students.
A new cross walk has been painted on Ottawa Street, parking barriers have been installed in the arena parking lot, no parking signs have been painted along Second Street, which will soon have signs that limit the no parking regulations to school hours, and temporary road blocks have been set up at both ends of Clinic Road to eliminate any through traffic.
In an effort to help the children become familiar with the new route township staff were out over the last week guiding children along the route and keeping them from passing through areas that will become part of the construction site. They too were available to speak to the parents and explain the reasoning for the changes.
Asked if more crossing guards would help the situation Brunt said, “We believe we have sufficient crossing guards to get the children safely to school.”
“Construction will commence shortly and safety of the children is first and foremost,” reads a staff report to council.