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School board pushes for playground speed zones

Advocates say change would provide clarity for drivers
The board of education would like to see roads around all school play areas designated as playground zones. Photo by Mike Chouinard

School District 71 wants to designate play areas on school properties as playgrounds as a way to promote safer driving in the community.

The topic came up on the agenda at the latest board of education meeting on April 26.

“It’s all about our children’s safety,” chair Tonia Frawley said.

Trustee Sheila McDonnell had intended to make a notice of motion to bring the item forward at the following meeting, but the board unanimously voted to forego this and put the motion on the table that night.

She was prompted because she realized that school yards are functioning as playgrounds for children all year-round and outside of normal school hours. On Hornby Island, which is part of the area she represents as trustee, she said dangerous driving had become an issue because of people driving through who are often unaware of a school zone.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland council moves on slower speed zones

McDonnell said Calgary took this action about five years ago, and more recently Vancouver has too. She also referred to a pilot project in the Crown Isle area. One of the advantages, she said, is that playground zones would not only set a standard year-round for speed but make regulations clear for drivers.

“People are very confused,” she added.

She said her vision was for some kind of regional board to work out details on setting playground zones around all schools.

“I think it could be a very positive thing for our students and our communities,” she said.

McDonnell’s’ colleagues agreed on the need for a standard speed.

“I think it’s timely, and it’s about time,” said trustee Sarah-Jane Howe.

Director of operations Ian Heselgrave explained who has responsibility for setting speed limits.

“It depends on who owns the road,” he said. “It really depends on the jurisdiction.”

As an example, he said Highland Secondary has a speed zone near it, but Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School Ecole Secondaire does not.

Following the discussion, the board passed the motion to have the superintendent begin discussions with the regional district, Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

Superintendent Tom Demeo said the district is already meeting with the City of Courtenay and will send a letter to all partners about holding a discussion on the matter.

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