For the past couple of months, volunteer crossing guards have shown up in the morning and afternoon to help people cross the road safely around Houghtaling Elementary School.
It’s part of an effort by the Houghtaling Safety Committee, a group that noticed a congestion problem along that stretch of Baranof Avenue. Julie Tibbles, who has led that effort, gave an update to the Ketchikan School Board last week.
One of the accomplishments was adding more off-street staff parking, which she said provided more space for parents to drop off their kids. Tibbles said the crossing guards also are a big help.
“We work about 45 minutes before school and 45 minutes after school, putting cones out in the yellow areas and standing guard at the crosswalks,” she said. “So, Lisa Johnston, Spencer Strassburg, Julie Steiner, Sheila Pemberton, Bob Sivertsen, Allison Brown, Peter Epler, Alma Parker, and Gilbert Varela. And I want to give a really big shout out to my right-hand guy: Alvin Ivanhoff.”
Tibbles said the volunteers help about 150 pedestrians each day, and it seems that awareness overall is greater among students and drivers. But, she said, using volunteer crossing guards is not a long-term fix to Houghtaling Elementary School’s traffic safety problem.
“My volunteers very from day to day. I have volunteers who want to be out there, they just don’t have work schedules that allow them to commit,” she said. “So, I never know when they’re going to be there. They’re a pleasant surprise when they are. So, as much good as we’re doing, the new drop-off area is by far the safest and most long-term option.”
School Board Member Trevor Shaw told Tibbles that the School Board-Borough Assembly liaison committee has agreed to recommend capital improvement funding for the proposed drop-off area at Houghtaling. Shaw credited Tibbles for bringing awareness to the issue.
“This is not usually a quick process, so I’m glad we’re able to take care of it relatively quickly,” he said. “The cooperation and overwhelming support from the borough is helpful, but thank you for being so faithful to the cause, shedding light on this and taking a proactive part.”
Houghtaling isn’t the only school on that stretch of Baranof. Across the street are Revilla Alternative School and a building used by Ketchikan’s Residential Youth Center. Less than a block away are Ketchikan High School and Holy Name Catholic School.
Students walking to school, parents dropping off their kids and others just headed to work create a lot of traffic there, especially in the morning.
The proposed Houghtaling drop-off area would be a loop constructed behind the school.