MEDFORD — Colleen Martin, campus monitor at Howard Elementary School, said the construction site adjacent the school is so treacherous that she began this week to escort the youngsters as they navigate the ditches, equipment and gravel piles between home and school.

MEDFORD — Colleen Martin, campus monitor at Howard Elementary School, said the construction site adjacent the school is so treacherous that she began this week to escort the youngsters as they navigate the ditches, equipment and gravel piles between home and school.

"We want to make sure the kids get through this safely," she said.

Martin is among many residents, students and school staff trying to grin and bear it as they endure a long-awaited construction project: sidewalks to Howard Elementary School.

The city is constructing 3,000 lineal feet of street, sidewalks and storm drains on Howard Avenue between Mace Road and Berrydale Avenue and on Mace Road between Howard Avenue and Connell Avenue. KOGAP Enterprises of Medford is the contractor for the $1.3 million project. It's part of a $4.6 million bond to build sidewalks around 12 elementary schools approved by voters in 2004.

Work began in the middle of August, and includes street closures and detours. Completion is now scheduled for the end of the year.

Sallie Johnson, principal of Howard Elementary School, said limited access to the school means traffic backs up when parents drop off and pick up the students.

"It has created great, great congestion," she said, adding that it can take 20 or 30 minutes to get back onto Merriman Road from Mace Road. And it's gone on longer than planned.

"The road closure on Mace was only supposed to be a couple of weeks," she said.

But she said the school is willing to bear some temporary inconvenience. Howard Avenue was a narrow, two-lane paved road with ditches on both sides and no sidewalks or gravel shoulders for pedestrians.

"We'll suffer for a short time but in the long run it'll make it safer for kids," she said.

Frank McElheran, KOGAP superintendent, said the project is in a dense neighborhood, and construction crews have had to move water services and cut driveways for 57 residences, remove trees and wait for utility poles to be relocated. And vandalism has increased time and costs, he said.

"Some of the delays come from the people who live there," he said.

For example, the day after the survey crews came out, someone removed the stakes and the site had to be resurveyed. Sections of fresh concrete have been destroyed, including one by a woman who intentionally bypassed waving worker