SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THE POLICE ON MONONGALIA COUNTY SCHOOLS
Day 1 of the new school, Eastwood, on the Mileground was met with a “wreck” on the Mileground between a car and school bus, a wreck that was responded to by multiple fire trucks. Fortunately no one was injured, reportedly.
Day 2 of the new school on the Mileground brings a news report in which Eastwood Principal Hartshorn assures the public that the state police “have agreed to provide [an] officer there every day,” said Hartshorn. “He will be there [at the Eastwood campus entrance and exit on WV 705] to help with traffic and congestion in and out of the school.” Oh really, Principal Hartshorn? No police officer of any sort was stationed anywhere – let alone along WV 705 – at either the opening or the closing of school on Day 2.
By contract with the DOH the contractor is required to have a police officer handling traffic at the school. And the Eastwood Principal promised an officer would be there. On Day 1 he was. On Day 2 he wasn’t. Day 3?
Day 2 also brought an in-school announced warning to the students that they might feel something or hear something apparently from the adjacent blasting [of bedrock] for the highway roundabout construction. Why is the contractor blasting by the school during school hours?
Why is there no safety fence between the school and the massive construction site?
Is heavy equipment still being allowed on the school campus? [Update: Yes. Heavy machinery, giant backhoes, etc, are being operated and driven on school grounds and school drives, daily. Even at the height of school dropoff and pickup hours. Cars and buses form lines on campus behind and beside active backhoes, dump trucks, bulldozers…]
What happened to the “DANGER! BLASTING! KEEP OUT” sign sitting on school grounds by the campus traffic circle at the school’s front doors on Day 1? The “DANGER! BLASTING!” sign sat out on the afternoon of Day 1 but was nowhere to be found on Day 2 when apparently the actual blasting occurred. And there is no fence between the school and the adjacent construction pit. Not even a tape barrier.
Everyone should read Donald Barthelme’s penetrating story “The School” immediately.
On Day 1, school afternoon pickup traffic backed up so far across the Eastwood Elementary campus that it would have stretched into the future state highways roundabout – during early afternoon rush hour – EVEN THOUGH traffic monitors guided cars into parallel pickup lines throughout the parking lot, for hundreds of feet. Of course, this meant children were dodging between the two lines of cars at pickup, while teachers guided them as best they could.
On Day 2, school morning dropoff traffic stretched all the way onto WV 705, backing up traffic into THE EXISTING intersection of WV 705 and US 119 (Mileground Road). School traffic cars on WV 705 blocked the highway because school traffic filled the entire campus. And no police officer or any personnel whatsoever were at that WV 705 intersection with the campus to direct traffic one way or another. Not that any traffic could move during the gridlock. Thank negligent leadership and disastrous planning. Cars needing to turn onto the school campus simply sat on WV 705, blocking all traffic – during morning rush hour – until the gridlock on campus eased a bit.
On Day 2, during morning dropoff, children dodged between two lines of cars to get into the school. “Look there goes Johnny! Go, Johnny!” A relief that the first graders dashing out of the cars actually reached the sidewalk in one piece.
On Day 1, for “recess,” lacking play space, the children walked along the school building off sidewalk. (There aren’t enough sidewalks.) What sights to behold. Hey, look! Heavy construction! Diesel fumes! Heavy traffic! And the DANGER! BLASTING! sign. Such an exercise walk is the least of any concerns. It was likely the safest thing that could happen around that school.
On Day 1, there was no 15 MPH School Zone warning sign on WV 705. Well guess what. On Day 2, the day after the Day 1 crash of a car and a school bus on the schoolside Mileground Road, there magically appeared a 15 MPH School Zone warning sign on the schoolside state highway (WV 705) that parents had long asked for and that had never been promised. Yes, the school district had never guaranteed such a sign, and the WV Division of Highways had recently publicly stated that such signs would be determined after the fact by an engineering study. Apparently the Day 1 congestion and crash was study enough.
So who says the officials can’t learn? If only too late. And as for the Monongalia County Schools top officials? They appear incorrigible.
So take care out there as you fend for yourselves, parents and students.
Mon Schools’ promises are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Eastwood Elementary opened over its reported student capacity – as parents sensed years ago and then demonstrated that it would, also years ago. And no promised police officer showed up to direct traffic on Day 2. Someone sold Principal Hartshorn a line of bull. Let’s hope that she stops passing along that line of bull to the parents and to the larger public.
An earlier post, containing many background details:
IT WOULD ONLY GET WORSE
In ways both known and unknown – studied, predictable, and probable.
The Eastwood Elementary new school site violates the mandatory provisions of the Legislative Rule §126-172 and State Board Policy 6200, which the SBA administers. The safety of new school sites are specifically regulated by this doctrine:
126CSR172 – 0 – Title 126 – Legislative Rule – Board of Education – Series 172 – Handbook On Planning School Facilities (6200)
The Rule mandates as follows (bold and italics added):
202.06. For the safety of students, the site shall be located away from hazards and undesirable environments, such as:
a. […] arterial highways, heavily traveled streets, traffic and congestion
b. Noise, toxic gas escapes from […] odoriferous plants or industries
e. […] bulk storage plants for flammable liquid, and property zoned as industrial
f. Situations where a combination of factors such as those presented above could contribute to the possibility of human entrapment
The violations of these mandatory provisions have never been specifically contradicted by state and county education officials and agencies, because doing so would not be credible: the facts are uncontroversial.
The insoluble conditions of all the bold provisions in “a” and “f” currently exist at the site and will always exist. The “noise” provision of “b” currently and insolubly exists at the site. Bold provision “e” and the latter parts of bold provision “b” are impending at the site, or are seriously threatened, in the form of a large Sheetz gas station that has been schematically designed on the site border, close to the building itself. These are insoluble, clear violations. This is a highly unusual and hazardous site, additionally “environmentally” unstable (in regard to future toxic and otherwise dangerous commercial, industrial, and traffic development) and therefore negligently unknowable, even as the immediate site and area are projected to degrade in quality year-by-year, decade-by-decade. The SBA-grant-proposal alternate site – the current Woodburn Elementary schoolgrounds – is an extremely safe and environmentally stable residential location that is lawful and suitable in every way.
The multiple violations of Rule 6200 show the severe threats to student safety and health inherent in the Mileground site, including but not limited to the following:
1. Lethal threat and violation 1: an increased propensity for crashes involving students in cars and buses – according to a study based on police reports, the heavily-traveled arterial intersection in front of the school is one of the most dangerous intersections for crashes in the entire region, with crashes, some fatal, occurring at and around the intersection on a regular basis; this is one of the most heavily traveled and congested intersections in the entire region, slated by planners to become dramatically even more heavily traveled due in part to an impending highway expansion that will shift the intersection of the two arterial highways so close to the front of the school that the stunted school drive will empty directly into the intersection of two arterial highways, within a couple years of the school opening; future prioritized highway expansions include bringing additional truck route arterial highways into this intersection and immediate area by the school site; none of these highway and traffic conditions, by state Rule, may be located near new school sites, at all, let alone at or adjacent to the immediate front of such sites as part of their entrance and exit, let alone engulf the site as is the case with this Eastwood Mileground location;
2. Civil threat and violation 1: the extreme potential of enormous civil and criminal liability risks – on September 12, 2011, a four car crash on arterial route 705 by the Eastwood site sent three people to the hospital, and closed route 705, entrapping motorists for hours, as reported in the Dominion Post newspaper (this is nothing unusual; crashes there are a regular occurrence; a motorcyclist was killed there the previous year, and 21 year-old woman was killed one intersection away on route 705 in an April 2011 car crash); if a similar calamity involves Eastwood students in the arterial highways or their intersection adjacent to the school or near it, which are in clear violation of the mandatory state rules and other law, or if there are similar kinds of calamities, then the civil and criminal liability lawsuits could easily dwarf the total cost of building the school;
3. Lethal threat and violation 2: vehicle exhaust air pollution above urban background pollution levels – the scientifically and medically known heart and lung damage (to “sensitive receptors” (young children) who live or attend school in close proximity to high traffic roads and gas stations) causes elevated rates of asthma, bronchitis, flu, and other diseases: cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, leukemia, all potentially fatal; when the students are playing, exercising, or studying outside especially, there is no escaping the air polluted by the vehicle exhaust from the major heavily travelled highways engulfing the school site in close proximity – the scientific and medical studies on the illness-inducing and potentially lethal effects of near-proximity vehicle exhaust pollution are voluminous and clear;
4. Lethal threat and violation 3: traffic congestion “approaching gridlock” poisons and entraps students – recent studies find a) “rush hours” congestion about 6 hours per day (7-9 am, noon, and 2:30-6 pm) on the arterials engulfing the school site, b) nationally rated worst possible “levels of service” (congestion): “D” and “F” (“approaching gridlock”), and c) afternoon Mileground arterial traffic speeds dropping from 14.1 mph to 8.4 mph (average) and from 7.7 mph to 6.2 mph (rush hours) if the school is added to the Mileground, and average vehicular delay at the school-front arterial intersection doubling with the addition of the school, causing pollution, vehicle crash danger, and “entrapment” to be not only “possible,” or likely, but inevitable; The 2007 Environmental Defense Fund study “All Choked Up” states that “Congestion itself has an effect: Stop-and-go traffic releases as much as three times the pollution of free-flowing traffic.” The study notes:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in 2004: ‘Siting of school and childcare facilities should include consideration of proximity to roads with heavy traffic and other sources of air pollution. New schools should be located to avoid “hot spots” of localized pollution.’ In some places, government policy reflects this concern. For example, the science of impacts on children’s health motivated the state of California to prohibit [school sites] within 500 feet of [any heavily travelled] highway.”
The Eastwood Mileground new school site is a “hot spot” and multiple safety and health menace.
5. Lethal threat and violation 4: gas stations and vehicle repair shops increase the leukemia rate by 400% – in children living nearby, according to studies; Mileground commerce consists mainly of these disease-inducing vehicle repair shops and gas stations, including at least half a dozen vehicle repair shops within a few hundred meters of the site, and three gas stations also within a few hundred meters of the site, making an impending, school-site-bordering Sheetz gas station the fourth. This large gas station is schematically designed to be located immediately adjacent to the school site, close to the school building, likely sharing a school drive.
On October 25, 2010, the West Virginia state Superintendent of Schools, Steven Paine, issued a “Superintendent Interpretation,” regarding Policy 6200. This interpretation was unconnected to the Eastwood Mileground site and was requested by state Senator Evan H. Jenkins. In the Interpretation, state Superintendent Paine ruled that Policy 6200 contains mandates that must be adhered to especially where there is a “safety consideration.”
The Legislature in West Virginia Code §18-5-13 mandates that each “county board” of education is “subject to…the rules of the State Board,” including Rule 6200.
Also breached is Legislative Rule §126-42-7.6, “Assuring the Quality of Education…County Board of Education Responsibilities…Facilities”:
“County Board of Education Responsibilities. 7.6. Facilities. 7.6.1. County boards shall ensure that facilities meet the standards set forth in W. Va. 126CSR172, WVBE Policy 6200, Handbook on Planning School Facilities.”
The West Virginia Supreme Court precedent holds that:
“Of course, an agency must follow and apply its rules and regulations in existence at the time of agency action” (Appalachian Power v. State Tax Department of West Virginia; 1995).
The Eastwood Mileground site violates or ignores:
1) Legislative Rule §126-172 and Legisative Rule §126-42-7, 2) various overlapping state Codes passed by the West Virginia Legislature, 3) formal legal rulings by West Virginia state Superintendents, 4) the mandatory Rules of the State Board and SBA, 5) West Virginia Constitution educational mandates and rights to life and safety, 6) the general recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding school siting, 7) the best operative knowledge of myriad medical and science studies about the debilitating effects of “near-proximity vehicle exhaust pollution” upon schoolchildren, 8) the expertise of West Virginia University professors, and 9) the public will and various public rights, a public overwhelmingly opposed to having any school built on the congested, expensive Mileground site, which is an extremely, even radically, atypical site for a new school, in being so dangerous, unhealthy, and potentially lethal.
Below: Eastwood Site Plan and Dangerous, High Traffic Surrounds
Except for the very few children who live on or just off the Mileground, not a single child who attends Easton or Woodburn Elementary would have to ever risk the traffic dangers and pollution damages of either the Mileground road or Route 705 if not for the horrible arterial intersection Eastwood school site.
But because Mon Schools in all its flagrant disregard for the health and safety and well-being of the schoolchildren of Easton and Woodburn is trying to site the combined Eastwood school at the intersection of Route 705 and the Mileground (US 119), several hundred young children, ages 3 to 11, will be exposed to the dangers and damages of those highways, their intersection, and the air-polluted school site every single school day, at least twice per day…4 times per day if they go out and come back for a field trip…6 times per day if they return after school for a play, a practice, a meeting, or other event. That’s about a quarter million exposures per school year, of young children to terrible Mon-Schools-imposed dangers and damages. A child would attend this school and risk these dangers for seven years: pre-kindergarten through 5th grade.
A school sited on the existing Woodburn schoolgrounds would never expose the schoolchildren to Route 705 or to the 705/Mileground intersection. Never. Not even for students attending from the direction of Easton. (Hartman Run Road bypasses the Mileground.)
And if in addition to a new Woodburn school a second new school were built for the students of Easton, perhaps on land the school district already owns at the 94 acre UHS site (on the border of North Elementary’s and Easton Elementary’s catchments) or elsewhere in the Easton catchment, then a couple more congested intersections would be removed from many young children’s daily lives.
But Mon Schools by pushing relentlessly for the Eastwood Mileground site has shown itself to be entirely determined to, at best, risk your children’s lives in that zone of death on those deadly roads, at those deadly intersections. And Mon Schools is doing so at appalling expense, paying top commercial rates for the substandard sewage dump that is the undermined Mileground menace of a site.
IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE “FALLING RUN CORRIDOR” ARTERIAL AND THE “INNER LOOP CONNECTOR” ARTERIAL ARE NOT ONLY “PROPOSED” THEY ARE “PRIORITIZED” BY THE MPO, AND THEY ARE NOT ONLY PRIORITIZED, THEY ARE THE VERY NEXT IN LINE TOP TIER PRIORITIES OF THE GREATER MORGANTOWN METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATION: