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Safety first as schools open; WMS crosswalk 'greatly improved'

A family crosses the street in the safety of the crosswalks in downtown Worthington. The crosswalk near Worthington Middle School has been improved in time for the new school year with the installation of the walking and bike path. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — As children return to the classroom, drivers need to be cognizant of students crossing roadways in the early morning and afternoon hours.

The crosswalk at Crailsheim Road and Oxford Street near Worthington Middle School could be considered hazardous if proper precautions are not taken by both pedestrians and drivers. Meanwhile, administration at WMS and Nobles County Public Works are both taking steps to keep children safe.

WMS principal Jeff Luke said things have “greatly improved” with the installation of the walking and bike path. Prior to the path, students who walked to school were using the edge of the roadway. The new path has made a “huge difference” in improving safety.

Luke added that administration warns students at the beginning of the school year about the dangers of crossing the busy road and offers both tips and alternatives to crossing at the busy intersection.

“Lots of kids used to walk along the lawn and run across the highway. We’ve corrected that,” Luke said.

He added that the school encourages students to stay on the golf course side of the road and walk to the next crossing past the intersection which may have less traffic.

Additionally, staff has observed afternoon travel patterns of students walking home after school and offered additional reminders.

Luke said parents need to also remind children of proper techniques for crossing the street and also teach them how to stay safe. 

Flashing crosswalk signs have also helped to warn drivers of students walking across the road. Nobles County Director of Public Works Stephen Schnieder, who is also a school board member, said the county opted for the flashing signs in lieu of traditional signage. Additionally, the County Board has requested the Minnesota Department of Transportation conduct a speed study on that area and others around Worthington to ensure current speed limits are still safe. 

“We felt from a safety standpoint that a crosswalk sign itself wouldn’t be enough,” Schnieder said. “The board authorized us to purchase the flashing signs.”

Luke is appreciative of the county’s efforts. 

“(We are) glad to have those (signs) to give an extra warning,” he said.

The signs remain illuminated for 30 seconds after pressing the button. They are battery-powered through solar cells and communicate via wireless signal to each other. 

The signs differ from signs found at most intersections, according to Schnieder. Unlike other crosswalk signs requiring a button to be pressed, they do not have a timer. Pedestrians need to look both ways before crossing to ensure motorists have slowed down or stopped. 

“We hope people will use it,” Schnieder said. “For drivers ... going through that area, slow down in the morning. 

“It doesn’t hurt to take more time. It’s better to slow down a bit for everyone’s safety.”

Daily Globe Reporter Robin Baumgarn may be reached at 376-7323.

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

(507) 376-7323