Updated at 3:45 p.m. with information from Seattle Public Schools.
On Jan. 13, approximately 15 minutes after school got over at 3:35 p.m., a student who was playing unsupervised inside an unfenced playground at Green Lake Elementary School ran out into the street and was struck by a car. A bulletin sent to parents from the school's principal Joanne Bowers published in the blog MyGreenLake.com, said that "the student was not hurt and attended school the next day."
The blog said that Bowers admitted that the unfenced playground is "a huge safety concern," promising that fencing will go in "ASAP." "This is my biggest fear," Bowers told parents of the accident.
I have a call in to Bowers to find out the timeline for constructing the fence, and why a children's playground, which is right across a street with moving vehicles, has no fence around it. Or rather, has a fence which due to some odd landscaping detail, stops right before the jungle gym.
Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Teresa Wippel said that the district had approved a request for a fence back in December, even before the accident happened, but that construction had been held up because "parts were not available." Wippel said that construction was expected to finish this week or early next week. "I am not aware of the long-term history of why there's no fence," she said.
A quick chat with Brian Dougherty of the Seattle Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program revealed that he's just as clueless as I am. "It's certainly uncommon," Dougherty said of the half-fence/non-fence. "I have no idea why they kept that open. It's an individual school's decision whether to have a high fence or a low fence—sometimes the community's desire to access the playground could result in no fencing."
Which of course gives ample access to kids to run into the path of oncoming traffic during a game of tag, as was the case two weeks ago. Dougherty explained that the car that hit the student had fortunately been going really slow (that whole area across from the playground is zoned for 20 miles an hour during school and 25 when there's no school). The crossing where the child was hit is a non-arterial crossing which experiences a low volume of traffic compared to an arterial crossing, he said, and hasn't seen any collisions in the last two years.
Bowers reminded parents through the My Green Lake blog "to obey traffic rules," near the school and not to leave their children unsupervised after school ends at 3:35 p.m., as per school policy. Bowers also informed parents that speeding patrols would increase near the school (an officer has already cited drivers for speeding earlier this month, she said).
Green Lake recently received a Safe Routes to School grant from SDOT which Dougherty said would aim to improve traffic circulation around the campus. Since the (non) fence sits on school property SDOT cannot go ahead and construct a fence around the playground. Dougherty will, however, sit down with Bowers on Friday to talk about it.