School board discusses recent pedestrian incident

Paulson

NEGAUNEE — Negaunee Public Schools is looking into dealing with a problematic traffic area near Negaunee Middle School where a 12-year-old student’s foot was run over by a car the morning of Sept. 12.

The girl, whose identity was not given by Negaunee police because of her age, was crossing Teal Lake Avenue when she ran into the side of a 2008 Honda Civic driven south on that road by Toni Rappazini, 37, of Negaunee, police said.

The child fell to the ground and the car ran over her foot. She was treated at UP Health System-Marquette for non-life threatening injuries.

The incident came up for discussion at Monday’s meeting of the NPS Board of Education at Negaunee High School.

“It’s very congested by the middle school,” said NPS Superintendent Dan Skewis, who added the girl’s tibia and fibula near her ankle on one leg were broken and required surgery. “I’m surprised she didn’t break bones in her foot because her foot was in pretty rough shape.”

Skewis

However, he noted the student was “surprisingly calm.”

Skewis did express frustration with the situation, saying there aren’t many ways to improve the circulation of cars and buses dropping off students. However, he still wants to fix the problem.

“We’re going to get something done there,” Skewis said. “We’re not 100 percent sure what the best solution is.”

One of his proposals was to have a sign in the middle of the road that requires traffic to yield to pedestrians — as is the case with downtown Marquette — although Michigan Department of Transportation officials have told him these signs provide pedestrians with a false sense of security.

Trustee Virginia Paulson pointed out that Northern Michigan University has many pedestrian signs in the middle of roads as well.

“Those people, they just do walk in front of you,” Paulson said.

Another possibility, which could come about with a Safe Routes to School grant, is a lighted intersection in which a pedestrian presses a button to cross. However, Skewis said MDOT officials again cautioned against this.

“They don’t want people, especially 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, thinking they can shoot across right when they hit that button,” Skewis said.

The school district now has a crossing assistant at the intersection of Teal Lake Avenue and Peck Street who helps students determine when it’s safe to cross, he said.

Skewis also has discussed the situation with Max Fulkerson, who works with Safe Routes to School in Lansing. Fulkerson is studying middle schoolers’ addresses to discover how many walk to school.

“We’re going to come up with potential solutions that I will continue to present to you guys as we move forward, but in the short term I want to continue with that crossing assistant,” Skewis said.

Students also need to be educated to use Peck Street, he said.

“We have a lot of parents who will drop off on the east side of Teal Lake Avenue and then their students walk across Teal Lake Avenue because the parents want to avoid that congestion, but then it leaves the students susceptible to walking across Teal Lake Avenue when it’s really busy,” Skewis said.

He vowed to continue to work toward a solution.

“I wish I could come to you tonight and say, ‘We’ve got it figured out, and nobody’s ever going to be in danger anymore,’ and I don’t have that answer,” Skewis said. “But I can guarantee you, I’m going to work hard to find the best solution for that.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.