'It is very scary and simply dangerous': BOS push for school zone near Westport elementary school

Students leave Kings Highway Elementary School on the announcement that Westport Schools will be closed for the unforeseen future Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in response to the Covid-19 virus pandemic in Westport, Conn.

Students leave Kings Highway Elementary School on the announcement that Westport Schools will be closed for the unforeseen future Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in response to the Covid-19 virus pandemic in Westport, Conn.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Concerns about students’ safety might soon be addressed if the state approves the selectmen’s request to create a school zone near Kings Highway Elementary School.

The move comes as a response to members of the Kings Highway community speaking out about traffic in the area and the lack of proper signage. The zone would have to be approved by the state Department of Transportation and would go on U.S. Route 1, adjacent to the school.

Public Works Director Pete Ratkiewich said there have been school zone signs in front of Kings Highway in the past, but at some point the state took all the signs down during a pavement project.

“This was alarming to the Kings Highway School community in that there were no school zone signs or crossing signs,” Ratkiewich said at a Board of Selectmen meeting Wednesday. “After much back and forth between my office and the Department of Traffic Engineering we sort of got clarification as to what we needed to do.”

Westport Police Cpl. Alan D’Amura said a lot of citizens have reached out to him, the first selectman and public works about implementing a school zone in one of the busiest areas in town. He said there is a lot of traffic with the highway nearby.

“This is something that is extremely important that we need to get done at the local level and then the state will support us on this,” he said, adding the school zone will help with enforcement and deter people from speeding.

BOS members questioned if there was something that could be done in the interim as the town waits for a response from the state, but D’Amura said the town could not place temporary signage on it because it’s a state road.

If approved, the school zone will run from Lincoln Street to Kings Highway North. The BOS also requested approval of two additional signs that will warn drivers of the approaching school zone and appropriate speeding limit.

Kim Ceman, past president of Kings Highway Parent Teacher Association, said the school community was thankful for the change.

“With our new pandemic realities kids have been encouraged to walk to school,” she said. “As a result we have seen a significantly larger number of children crossing and walking on Post Road to and from school.”

Ceman said it has become alarming to see the lack of safety on Post Road.

“As a parent walking with my children it is very scary and simply dangerous,” she said. “And we anticipate the large numbers of walkers to become the new norm in the future, warranting lasting safety measures to be considered now.”

Christine Meiers Schatz, a RTM member, said she supported the change. She said KHS is the only school in town with its main entrance on Post Road and also has a main playground that borders it.

“KHS has a large and enthusiastic population of students who walks to school and did so even before the pandemic,” she said. “Most of these students must cross the Post Road on their route.”

Meiers Schatz said most days it can be harrowing to walk the area where the school zone is being considered.

“The school zone signs you are considering, complete with flashing lights that rate our speed, are a quick first step to improving safety for our town’s youngest pedestrians,” she said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com