École North Oyster’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is calling for greater road safety measures after all after hours school activities, including the annual Christmas concert, were cancelled this year after a serious incident last winter.
The school is situated on the often busy Cedar Road and last year a child was clipped, but escaped serious injury, while exiting a vehicle to attend a holiday function in the evening.
Now, the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District has suspended all after dark activities at the school.
The PAC has responded by launching a petition asking that the Ministry of Transportation to install street lights and widen the road, among a list of other suggestions.
“We’ve been working with the District who has been working with MOT to try and find a solution and it’s almost been a year now and no one has figured out the solution so we decided that maybe we needed to take a different route,” said PAC chair Candice McLean.
While daytime events such as the Remembrance Day ceremony were permitted, other events such as movie nights, dances and the holiday Christmas concert were removed off the calendar.
“The one thing that North Oyster really has going for them is their school community and that community really stretches from Saltair to Nanaimo,” McLean said. “They want to have their events at their school. Children want to show their parents their art on the bulletin boards, where they get to sit an assembly…. it’s really sad that we’re not able to have that community piece at our school due to lighting.”
When École Davis Road closed in 2014, students were amalgamated into Ecole North Oyster and the student population then ballooned from 90 to now over 340.
In 2014, District staff, in partnership with the North Oyster PAC, held meetings and discussed plans for the corridor in front of the school.
A request was made to the MOT and CVRD to install street lighting, put in flashing lights on the existing crosswalk, install an additional crosswalk on the other side of the school from the existing crosswalk, install additional school zone signage, widen road shoulders on both sides of Cedar Road and lower the surrounding speed limit from 60km to 50km/h.
These demands form the bulk of the PAC’s petition which has garnered over 600 signatures on Change.org.
“That is a dark, dark road. People fly down that road,” McLean said. “Even in the daytime when I’m dropping off my children, people are hauling down that road in a school zone.”
According to the MOT, however, the traffic in front of North Oyster doesn’t meet the threshold for a flashing crosswalk.
Dale Burgos, the school district’s executive director of communications said SD68 “understands the reason for the PAC’s need to petition the government for increased safety on the road around École North Oyster Elementary as it has been known to be a safety concern.”
However, none of the projects would be funded or managed by the district because it’s outside SD68’s jurisdiction.
“The PAC’s request for items such as flashing lights, increased signage, widening shoulders, or adjustment to the speed limit on the public road on which our school sits would be installed on public property not managed by the district. Funding and installation for these enhancements would have to come from our government partners. The district is open to revisiting these options with the CVRD and the Ministry of Transportation,” Burgos added.
The future of evening events at North Oyster remains uncertain and PAC vice chair Kristi Wright notes that in all cases they want to be inclusive as possible.
“A lot of us our working parents and unfortunately the time we have to give to this is at nighttime,” Wright said. “There’s other working parents out there that can’t be involved in these activities when they really want to be a part of it.”
In place of the Christmas concert this year the school plans to hold a winter activity during the day.