By LESLIE COLLINS
December 26, 2012
The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education opened with a moment of silence Dec. 19 to remember the lives lost and those impacted by the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
“Our hearts are deeply saddened and troubled by the events that took place in Newtown, Conn.,” KCPS Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green said. “To see innocent lives taken away gives us all pause. The best way to honor those who lost their lives in that horrific event is to further enhance and intensify our efforts to make sure our schools are safe and do all that we can.”
KCPS Board of Education President Airick West said the community has been asking what, if any, additional measures the district will take to protect the well-being of its students.
In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed six adults and 20 children, KCPS is forming a task force to review and make necessary changes to the district’s safety procedures. That task force will be comprised of KCPS security staff, district administration, teachers and community members.
Green stressed that even more lives would have been lost at Sandy Hook if it hadn’t been for the solid safety procedures already in place.
While the district follows the guidelines of the National Incident Management System, those procedures can still be improved, Green said.
“While it’s a good system, it could be better and we want it to be better and we insist it be better,” Green said.
Green said the district’s principals would undergo a refresher of the district’s safety procedures, as well as evaluating how they would handle a situation similar to Sandy Hook at their school.
Addressing another safety concern, Board of Education member Joseph Jackson proposed passing a resolution asking the City of Kansas City to reconsider its plan to replace traffic signals with stop signs at intersections throughout the city.
In October, the city faced a backlash when it disabled traffic lights at 37 intersections and began installing stop signs to replace the signals, failing to inform area residents of the plan. Calls from angry residents poured in to City Council members, causing the city to temporarily halt the removal of signals. However, traffic signals had already been removed from three intersections: 12th and Spruce/Jackson; 12th and Bennington; and 24th and Hardesty. Currently, 144 traffic signals are slated for removal.
When Jackson originally questioned the city’s decision and asked who the city consulted, a city official told Jackson the city contacted the principals at each school.
“I said there’s not a principal in the district that can make a decision like this for the district,” Jackson said. “They (city) finally admitted they talked to nobody.”
Eleven of the intersections with now disabled signals are in school crossing areas, Jackson said. If students live within one mile of school, they walk, he said.
The city’s resolution that temporarily halts the removal of traffic signals expires Dec. 24, Jackson said.
A school crossing guard stationed at a four-lane intersection on Troost told Jackson there had been “several near misses.”
Jackson also pointed out that crossing guards only work at intersections one hour before school starts and one hour after school dismisses. So, if a student is late, he or she must navigate busy intersections alone, Jackson said.
“Our children’s safety – there’s no price tag for that,” Green told Northeast News.
Asked what action the district would like the city to take, Green said KCPS wants the signals to at least have a functioning crosswalk button.
Board of Education members unanimously passed the resolution, which states that “The change from stoplights to stop signs has caused confusion to motorists, made it difficult for students to cross at intersections and directly threatens student, staff and parent safety.”
In addition, the resolution asks the city to “permanently postpone the implementation until the issue of student safety can be addressed” and to work with the Board of Education to reach a solution.