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Students lobby for safe streets

In the growing community of White City, the streets are bustling with vehicles and pedestrians, many of whom are pupils from three schools in the Eagle Point School District.

But many of the signs and crosswalks that alert motorists of school zones and students on foot are either absent, hidden by obstacles or confusing, according to research by a group of Eagle Point High School students.

The six students, all from the school's leadership class, presented information Wednesday to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in hopes of obtaining more signs, crosswalks and roadside cleanup along White City pedestrian school routes.

Meant to improve the safety of students, the project also was a lesson in civics for the leadership students, said Ed Pariani of White City Youth Against Drugs, who conceived the idea.

On a map, the students pinpointed 29 street signs near White City schools that are hidden by shrubbery, parked vehicles and other obstacles and 75 areas in need of crosswalks or some kind of sign.

The safety gaps could affect at least half of the total 1,250 students who attend Mountain View Elementary, White City Elementary and White Mountain Middle School.

At Avenue G near the middle school, there are no crosswalks, and the posted speed limit is 45 mph.

"You don't even know there is a school there," said Eagle Point senior Gary Clement. "It's like the school ran out from behind a bush."

About 80 percent of students walk home from the middle school, more than at the elementary schools, said White Mountain Principal Lynn Eccleston.

"The biggest concern is Avenue G is a busy street, and most kids have to cross it to get to other streets in the neighborhood," she said.

Four crossing guards are assigned to the street each school day to help students cross safely, she said.

The leadership students, including Gary, Dakotah Delagne, Alison Dodenhoff, Lacey Hulla, Missy Rhodes and Courtney Phariss, will present their research soon at a Jackson County Planning Advisory Committee meeting, where changes could be considered.

"We live in the area and see the problems on a daily basis," Pariani said. "This allows students to get involved. Governmental departments welcome (the suggestions) because the groundwork is done. If every community member did this, we would solve a lot of problems."

The leadership students volunteered for the research project after Pariani invited them to get involved in the community.

They spent more than 120 hours gathering the information by walking the routes, noting signs and crosswalks and plotting them on maps. Jackson County traffic engineer Eric Niemeyer advised them on local and federal standards for school zones.

"We volunteered not knowing what we were getting involved in," Dakotah quipped. "I thought we were just going to cut down a couple branches, so people could see the street signs, but this was better because we found out how (street planning) works."

The students also consulted staffs at the three White City schools, the local Boys and Girls Club and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters to help identify safety hazards they might have overlooked.

"I am impressed," said Commissioner Jack Walker. "I not only think you are doing this the right way (to affect change), it's a great education for these young people to allow them to know, if there are problems, they can research them and come to us."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Students from White Mountain Middle School in White City walk home on Avenue G, where there are no crosswalks and the speed limit is 45 mph. - Roy Musitelli