2012-08-30 / News

Safer routes expected by next year

School Committee approves designs plans unanimously
BY ALEXANDER RAEBURN

Jamestown will have safer designated walking routes for students going to and from the schools by the end of the 2013 summer, after the School Committee unanimously approved the design plans at its Aug. 23 meeting.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer, accompanied by Bruce Hagerman, an engineering consultant from Crossman Engineering, presented plans for updates that will be funded by federal grants the town received under the Safe Routes to School program.

“The improvements won’t all be on the school grounds, they will be what we call the school-grounds neighborhood which goes from the library on North Road, Arnold Avenue to the north, Melrose Avenue to the west, and Narragansett Avenue to the south,” said Bryer.

Sidewalk extensions will be installed on North Road, Watson Avenue, Lawn Avenue and Melrose Avenue. The project will include painted concrete crosswalks, similar to those that cross Narragansett Avenue and surrounding intersections in the downtown sector.

The parking lot at the Lawn Avenue School will also be upgraded. “We’re kind of reconfiguring the parking,” said Hagerman. “You’ll end up with the same total number of spaces, but these spaces conform to standard parking regulations where as some of them now do not.”

“The spot that’s kind of a halfhandicap spot that everybody parks in to drop off their tubas and their flutes and things will now be a five- or 10-minute spot,” said Bryer, adding that two new handicap spots will be constructed as well.

In addition to the parking lot being redesigned, on-street parking will line a new sidewalk that will extend from the parking lot north to the end of ball field.

The parking lot at Melrose Avenue School will be improved also. There will be crosswalks added to organize a safer pick-up and drop-off area. Right now, committee member B.J. Whitehouse says the area can be a “zoo sometimes.” There is also going to be an asphalt-walking path that will connect the two schools, the tennis courts, and the sidewalk on Watson Avenue.

Whitehouse brought up the archeological concerns about improving any of the school grounds and surrounding areas, stating that the Narragansett Tribe had found shells and artifacts along the ball field.

“We know that it’s a very sensitive site,” said Bryer. “Part of the whole design of this project was to minimize excavation.”

Hagerman also noted that members of the tribe were part of the design team.

The walking path that travels amongst the school grounds will be slightly raised to avoid any unnecessary excavation. Along the path, near the town forest area, a small outdoor gathering space will also be created.

“We have what’s called a council ring, which will be a placement of boulders in a circular pattern that will be kind of an outdoor classroom type of area,” Bryer said.

Students in Jamestown will also have a shortened walking distance as a new transportation policy is adopted. The policy reduces the distance required for bus service to .75 miles from a school. The new transportation policy also includes student bus passes to make sure they are accounted for and on the bus they are scheduled to take.

In other news, Jamestown school administrators received a new contract during the meeting. The three-year contract includes an incremental increase in individual health-care contributions. It will leave them responsible for a 20 percent co-share of expenses and the reimbursement of coursework related to their positions of up to $2,500 a year, according to School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser.

The contract passed with all in favor except for Sav Rebecchi, who said he was voting against the agreement to remain consistent with his vote against the previously accepted teachers’ contract.

“I want to be clear that I think that we are very lucky to have the administrative staff that we have,” he said. “They work very hard. They will be accepting something that is very fair on their part and helps the school. My reasons are basically the principal of concern of any increases in expenses and costs at this time knowing that we are about to face numbers of the unknown with [post-employment benefits], and I am not confident that our estate standing, with the retirement changes, will be held up. ... So that makes me even more conservative than I normally am.”

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