Sidewalks the city plans to install on Beech Street Southeast will make it safer for students who walk to and from school, but they wouldn’t have prevented the accident that injured a student Monday, according to city and school officials.
A seventh grade Decatur Middle student was hit by a vehicle while trying to cross Somerville Road after school.
“In this situation, a staff member told the students not to cross the street where they were, but the students chose not to listen and darted across the street,” said Dwight Satterfield, deputy superintendent of school safety and student services for Decatur City Schools.
The city has received a grant to install sidewalks on Beech Street from Somerville Road to 14th Avenue, and the sidewalks will give students an identifiable area to walk, he said.
"But there is no correlation between sidewalks and what happened on Monday," Satterfield said.
Decatur grants administrator Allen Stover said the city applied for the grant to install sidewalks “in and around the hospital” in 2018 and received $414,000 in transportation enhancement money. The city is awaiting state approval of the plans to bid the project.
The student, who suffered mainly bruises and abrasions, was transported to Decatur Morgan Hospital and released Monday.
“He’s doing fine,” Satterfield said.
Council President Paige Bibbee said plans for the sidewalks were in the works before the accident and that she has talked with Police Chief Nate Allen about using officers to talk with students about the dangers of “jaywalking” and how they should walk and ride bikes around traffic.
“Sadly, some students don’t know you ride bikes with traffic and walk against traffic,” she said.
The student was hit about 40 yards north of where Decatur has a crossing guard for students who walk to and from school.
Satterfield said there is an alley north of the crossing guard “where some students choose to walk home.”
Bibbee, who is the liaison between the city and school system, said she’s not opposed to putting a second crossing guard near the alley “if this will make it safer for students. But, this decision will be made by the police chief.”
The school system has more pedestrian traffic in the area since moving middle school students from the Oak Park campus to the old Decatur High School on Prospect Drive.
Middle and high school students dismiss at the same time, but the school system does not provide transportation for middle school students who reside within 1 mile of school or high school students who live within 2 miles of school.
When Somerville Road Elementary was where the new high school is, elementary students who walked or were transported by their parents dismissed one hour before high school students.
Satterfield said he was not aware of any plans to change the time middle school students dismiss to decrease the amount of pedestrian traffic when some high school students are driving home.
He said the area was properly staffed on Monday and the Decatur High student involved in the incident was “by all accounts” driving the speed limit.
Satterfield said it was an unfortunate incident where two middle school students crossing Somerville Road didn’t listen.