By Gabriella Payne
A group of concerned parents have decided to join forces and petition for change, after growing increasingly worried about their children’s safety due to the lack of a school crossing outside St Ita’s Catholic Primary School in Drouin.
Dorothy McMahon, a primary school teacher and parent to two young boys at St Ita’s, started the petition on change.org just over a week ago and it has now gained over 600 signatures.
Ms McMahon said that she knew many parents were concerned for their children’s safety as Victoria Street had a dangerous blind crest and was a “nightmare” at school drop off and pick up times.
“It’s mind boggling that the primary school doesn’t have any crossing out the front at the moment,” Ms McMahon said.
“There’s no flashing lights – there’s nothing. It’s just not safe, that’s the bottom line,” she said.
Despite living just a few streets away from St Ita’s, Ms McMahon said that she wouldn’t feel comfortable letting her boys walk to school by themselves, as she “would be too worried” about them crossing the road.
After reaching out to the Baw Baw Shire Council herself and seeing no progress made, Ms McMahon decided it was time to take action before someone got hurt.
“The last thing you want is for an accident to happen before they [the authorities] actually do something about it,” she said.
The principal at St Ita’s Catholic Primary School, Andrew Osler, said that the school supported the parents’ petition and would welcome the implementation of a school crossing on Victoria Street, as the students’ safety was paramount.
“At St Ita’s our highest priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of all our students,” Mr Osler said.
“We believe designated road crossing areas are an important element in making safe physical activity part of children’s daily travel, and building healthy habits for life.”
Mr Osler said that even though the school had “a range of mitigation strategies” in place to protect students at busy pick-up and drop-off times, St Ita’s would benefit greatly from a school crossing.
“We support continued improvements to infrastructure to support the needs of families in our rapidly growing area, and would welcome the addition of a school crossing on Victoria Street,” he said.
Despite the overwhelming support for the crossing from both the school and parents, Ms McMahon said that visible action had yet to be taken by the Baw Baw Shire Council, and concerns were growing throughout the school community.
David Hair, the acting director of community infrastructure at the Baw Baw Shire Council said that they were aware of the safety issue outside St Ita’s and were currently looking into the matter.
“Council is aware of and is working to find solutions to address pedestrian safety around St Ita’s Primary School, after completing an assessment in February 2021,” Mr Hair said.
“Council and Regional Roads Victoria work together on the process of determining the feasibility of installing school crossings.
Council undertakes preliminary analysis, including pedestrian counts and traffic data collection before presenting it to an internal review by the council’s executive leadership team.
If the proposal is endorsed, the council will submit an application to Regional Roads Victoria for consideration and approval,” he said.
Mr Hair explained that Regional Roads Victoria set “pedestrian and traffic count requirements in any hour during school times” when considering the implementation of a school crossing.
For primary schools, there needed to be more than “5,000 movements” across the road during the school day, which was calculated by the number of primary students crossing the road multiplied by the number of vehicles using the road.
“In addition to these results, the council also looks at the availability of parking spaces, location of residential driveways, street lighting and any nearby intersections that may influence pedestrian safety and any potential school crossing location,” Mr Hair said.
While they wait to hear the council’s decision, Ms McMahon encouraged anyone else who supported the school crossing idea to go online and sign the petition.
“We’re hoping that more people show their support for it and the shire will then support the community in keeping our kids safe,” she said.
To sign the petition, head to https://www.change.org/p/baw-baw-shire-the-installation-of-a-supervised-crossing-on-victoria-street-at-st-ita-s-primary-school