Girl Scouts Make School Safe
The next generation of policy makers is getting a big head start. Seven Maple Grove girls—with clout as Girl Scouts—have sat across the table from police officers, city and county government officials and their school principal to strategize ways to make travel safer around Rice Lake Elementary School. “I’m excited that we are going to change things,” says 10-year-old Hannah McMahan, a member of troop No. 11429 and the school’s pedestrian safety patrol.
McMahan and her six cohorts identified the problem as some drivers being inattentive or unlawful on Elm Creek Boulevard and 89th Avenue North when students were crossing the roads near the school. The Girl Scouts are proposing new signs, different street light timing, added adult supervision and even re-striping 89th Avenue to get the cars that are turning right out of the way of the rest of the flow of traffic.
Like most Maple Grove schools, students descend on Rice Lake Elementary School in a variety of ways, including drop-offs from parents’ minivans, school buses, and the most vulnerable—walkers, bikers and maybe a few kids skipping or on scooters.
“They noticed that we could influence and be safer here,” says Rice Lake Elementary Principal Mark French. “It’s more enhancements than anything because we are safe. We have outstanding safety patrols, but I think the girls thought, ‘It could be better.’ And there probably are some ways that it could be better.”
Marc Culver, a traffic engineer with the City of Maple Grove, has been contacted by parents and schools, but never a scout troop. “I was pretty impressed with some of their observations and some of their ideas,” Culver says. “Some of the [recommendations] are a little difficult to implement, but I was impressed with them trying to think outside of the box. They were pretty well spoken, and they weren’t afraid to ask questions.” Culver says change could come with the implementation of count-down pedestrian timers for pedestrian crossings instead of only the lit-up walking figures. Other changes are still on the table.
The troop—McMahan, Jayzryn Thompson, Megan Kissinger, Haley Platt, Grace Mayer and Diamond Bellfield—were getting fed up with vehicles crossing intersections before the safety patrol had completely finished escorting fellow kids to the other side. They began taking down license plate numbers to put a stop to it, but police couldn’t take a juvenile account as an official case.
Krista McMahan, the troop’s co-leader and Hannah’s mother, says change could come with added adult supervision before and after school. The girls will propose a plan to gain finances from the parent-teacher organization. “It’s been a good experience for them to meet with these different people, and in terms of what they are bringing to the school,” Krista McMahan says. “Especially the girls in our patrol, they get a little frustrated when they see people blatantly breaking the law.”
Discussions with the government officials have taught the girls some things, too. “They have been talking to us about the driver’s point-of-view, and we hadn’t thought about that before,” Hannah McMahan says. “They might be frustrated that we are crossing kids, and they have to wait a whole other [light] cycle before they can go.”
The work of the Girl Scoot Troop could be more relevant next school year with speculation that Elm Creek Boulevard could receive increased traffic with the extension of Minnesota State Highway 610 this summer. Currently, Elm Creek Boulevard has about 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles on it per day, with the possibility to increase “a couple thousand,” Culver says. He added that if traffic increases, it would mean one or two more cars per minute during the kids’ travels. By comparison, Hemlock Avenue averages 20,000 cars per day, and Cedar Island Elementary School doesn’t allow its students to cross the street.
Troop member Haley Platt is convinced they are going to have an impact. “It’s going to make a big difference because the patrol has been a big problem,” the 11-year-old says. “We are worried about the safety of the kids and the patrol, and we will make sure they get to school safely and on time.”
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