Medford school officials hope a popular school crossing on Black Oak Drive will become less popular with students after the city of Medford removed crosswalk markings and school zone signs.
Saying they believed the crossing was unsafe, city officials asked the school district to provide a crossing guard at the intersection of Black Oak Drive and Dellwood Avenue, where a crosswalk long has been used by Hoover Elementary School students and people walking to Holmes Park, which is adjacent to the school.
Saying it also thought the crossing was unsafe, the district declined to provide a crossing guard. After completing a repaving project on Black Oak this summer, the city did not repaint the crosswalk and took down the signs.
With only days before school starts, Hoover Elementary School staff will communicate with parents to discourage students from crossing Black Oak at Dellwood for safety reasons, the Medford School District said.
The crosswalk takes walkers west on Dellwood, which ends at Holmes Park. A gate is opened before and after school to allow students to enter and leave the school on the north side through the park. The school's main entrance is on Siskiyou Boulevard, on the south side of the school.
The school is urging students to take alternative routes, Medford School District spokeswoman Natalie Hurd said.
“We have always been discouraging students to use that route, but we are going to be more strategic with our communication with parents this year,” Hurd said. “We are going to do our best — it’s going to be a unified effort to defer our students of using that route.”
City’s transportation manager Karl MacNair told the Mail Tribune in an email that even with crosswalk markings and school zone signs, the intersection was not safe for students to cross without supervision. The crosswalk sits at the top of a hill, just north of an S-curve in Black Oak, giving drivers less time to recognize that pedestrians are waiting to cross.
“School crosswalks are supposed to be marked to tell pupils where is the safest place to cross the street,” MacNair wrote. “We saw a number of instances of cars not stopping for pupils who were waiting to cross the street and concluded that a crossing guard was needed at this location.”
The city took its actions after contacting the school, MacNair said.
“(They) told us that they would not be posting a crossing guard here, so we did not repaint the crosswalk and removed the school zone signs,” MacNair said.
Oregon Department of Education’s Traffic Patrol Manual for Schools recommends that adult crossing guards be placed at crosswalks that are far from the school and can’t be monitored by school officials. Because of its distance from Hoover, the Black Oak crosswalk warranted a crossing guard, MacNair said. The crossing is about the distance of two typical city blocks away from the gate between the school and the park.
Hurd said because the intersection is at the top of a hill, it’s not only unsafe for students but also would be dangerous for a crossing guard.
“The bottom line is it’s putting our employees at risk and it’s not the safest way to get to school,” Hurd said.
The safest alternative is to walk about two blocks south to cross at the traffic signal at the intersection of Siskiyou Boulevard and Black Oak Drive, Hurd said. Hoover posts crossing guards at crosswalks at several other locations, including in front of the school, the parking lot, the drop-off location and a crosswalk on South Modoc Avenue.
It would be an even longer walk for park visitors used to crossing Black Oak at Dellwood. If they wanted to avoid the intersection, they would have to go north or south about two city blocks, cross Black Oak and then double back.
The crossing at Black Oak and Dellwood remains a crosswalk and drivers are still required to stop for pedestrians crossing there. Under Oregon law all intersections are considered to have crosswalks.
Hoover Elementary School and the rest of the Medford School District will start the school year Tuesday. Hurd didn’t detail how the school administration will communicate with parents and staff. As of Friday afternoon, there was no announcement on the school’s website or Facebook page.
— Reach reporting intern Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.