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Residents concerned about KCS’ plan for school access road

Two Kenton residents raised concerns about Kenton City Schools’ new access road linking the high school to the new elementary building.
Josh Reffner and Shawn Middleton, both homeowners on Stonegate Drive just north of the high school, asked school board members at their meeting Monday night to consider a gate to limit traffic on the gravel road which connects to Harding Avenue.
The access road abuts Reffner’s property and he has two young children who play in the backyard near the road.
Development of a lane between the schools has been in the plans from the outset of the new school project to provide easy access for school maintenance staff, said board member David Haushalter.
Asked about the board’s vision for the road, member Tom Brim said he envisions there being emergency access to it, possibly during a construction situation which limits access to the new school from other routes. He doesn’t know if the road will be gated.
“I don’t think there’s an iron clad plan that fits yet,” he said.
Superintendent Jennifer Penczarski said the plan is to create a walking path/bike path along the access road using funds through the Safe Routes to School program.
“A walking path/bike path would be an asset to the community,” Reffner said. “Vehicular traffic is what makes me extremely nervous.”
He is concerned about safe access for children on the bike path with the possibility of teen drivers using the road to pick up siblings at the new school.
Penczarski said the Safe Routes to Schools team is analyzing the situation.
Reffner also is concerned because of the amount of walking traffic now between the apartment complexes on either side of the new school. He would like to see plans include some type of lighting that is minimally intrusive to property owners.
Middleton also mentioned the apartments situation and “the potential for negative interaction” between those residents and school children. He encouraged development of a plan for a police presence in the area, and also called for the drive to be gated.
Reffner encouraged the board and administration to communicate with citizens in the neighborhood about their plans to avoid future apprehensions.
The Safe Routes to Schools program will be the focus of a public meeting set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Administration Building (Oaklief School), 222 W. Carrol St.
Penczarski said the program, administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation, will offer up to $500,000 annually to provide walking and bicycling routes for students in grades K-8.
A group of community and school representatives has created a draft School Travel Plan. It will be reviewed at the meeting. Parents and other members of the public are encouraged to attend, provide input and ask questions about the plan.
Once the plan is complete, the community is eligible to apply for funds for items in it. Safe Routes to School is administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Also at the meeting, Brim announced the school board and property owner Dave Taylor have reached a verbal agreement for the district to acquire land for the north extension of Morningside Drive to serve the new elementary building.
That agreement was reached in a 40-minute closed session.
A formal agreement will be prepared and is expected to be ready for board approval later this month.
Penczarski said the board will have a special meeting to accept the agreement and to approve Choice One Engineering for the design of the Morningside extension. A date for the meeting will be announced later.
In other business, the board:
– Heard Penczarski report that with Tuesday’s school closing because of the frigid weather, the district will have used its fifth calamity day. She said when students return to school they will get three “Blizzard Bags” to prepare for future closings. These will contain information about doing school work online or on hard copy if school is canceled.
– Conducted a 25-minute closed session with Athletic Director Mike Mauk. Upon return to open session, no information was released about the discussion.
– Appointed Russ Blue to a three-year term on the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center’s board of education.
– Approved a medical leave of absence request for Brenda Lutz from Aug. 15, 2013 through Feb. 17, 2014; and Renea Flowers starting Nov. 19, 2013 with a return to work date of April 8, 2014.
– Approved Alicia Risner as an educational assistant at the middle school for 5.5 hours per day, beginning Jan. 6.
– Approved Ann Brien as a substitute principal and Thomas Walton as a substitute teacher.
The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20.

By TIM THOMAS
Times editor

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