Everyone would agree that a school should be a safe haven for students. But what if children were at risk walking to school, riding the bus, or even just playing in the schoolyard? According to the PTA Safety Committee at Fairfield Elementary School in Massapequa, busy intersections, speeding motorists, and parking problems around the school are all reasons for concern.
Working closely with the administration, including Fairfield's Principal Sandra Bolton, the PTA committee has isolated problem areas around the school and contacted the proper municipalities to attempt to coordinate effective solutions.
Hicksville Rd., between School St. and Prospect place, two blocks off Merrick Rd. is one area the committee is targeting. Cars are notorious for speeding north and south on Hicksville Rd., which is adjacent to the schoolyard. Linda Nina, Fairfield PTA's Safety Committee chairperson, cited an instance last spring when a utility pole was knocked over by a speeding motorist. The children were in the schoolyard at the time, and needed to be evacuated. In 1994, there was another incident where an out-of-control car went through the schoolyard.
"Our safety committee has always found that area to be dangerous for the kids who play in our schoolyard, including our Massapequa baseball and basketball teams, who also use the schoolyard after regular school hours," Nina said. "We basically want to call attention to the area and say we need some sort of a traffic device installed to slow the motorists down because the current signs posted there aren't effective."
Another area the committee is hoping to call attention to is the busy intersection between Massapequa Ave. and Merrick Rd. The intersection, which is used by students as a crosswalk, bisects two lanes of speeding traffic in each direction. "Although we have a very courageous crossing guard positioned at that intersection, we feel a traffic light, or some other safety precaution, is needed to assist her."
Massapequa Schools Executive Director of Educational Services and Human Resources Robert Schilling concurred. "Because it is such a wide road, with four lanes of traffic and a turning lane, when the crossing guard is stopping traffic in one direction, cars going the other direction just aren't able to see her." He also said that generally poor visibility makes that intersection a dangerous one for school buses, as well.
Schilling also brought up the need for restricted parking in front of the school building during school hours. "The buses have difficulty making sharp turns into the parking lot when there are cars parked on either side of the road," he explained. "Often times, the buses require assistance to back up, which is one of the things the transportation office likes to do the least-- have a bus back up."
Senator Charles Fuschillo met with representatives from the Fairfield PTA March 15 in order to discuss traffic concerns. Principal Bolton and Supervisor Terese Steinhauer accompanied Fuschillo on a walk around the school, where he was optimistic that solutions could be found. Because Fairfield is located between Town, County, and State roads, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto's office was also contacted, in hopes of resolving the problems.
"I am confident that our elected officials will do whatever is necessary to guarantee our children's safety," Nina said.