NANAIMO — Despite a glaring example of the hazards at play, parents of children at a rural Ladysmith school are still fighting for road safety improvements.
The Parent Advisory Committee at Ecole North Oyster launched an online petition, calling on the province to install a flashing crosswalk, improve lighting and signage and widen the road in front of the elementary school.
It's a discussion which has been ongoing for nearly five years and one that was given renewed importance after a pre-school aged child was clipped by the mirror of a passing vehicle last winter. Due to that incident and the clear danger present at night, the school can no longer host evening events like dances, community events or even a Christmas concert.
Claire Brown, a multi-year member of the PAC and parent of two students at the school, said while she's lucky enough to be able to attend daytime events, many other parents aren't.
"Other parents feel heartbroken that they won't get to see things like their children's last Christmas concert at elementary school."
Ecole North Oyster is located on Cedar Rd., not far from Yellow Point Rd. In front of it is a two-lane rural road with no sidewalks and very narrow shoulders. There are no streetlights of any kind and the road can be crossed at only one crosswalk with limited signage. There is restricted parking directly in front of the school and the speed limit outside of the school zone is 60 kilometres per hour.
"It is quite chaotic to bring your child to school there. At any given time during the morning or after school there are 100-plus vehicles trying to drop off or pick up children," Brown said.
She said a community centre roughly 100-metres away offers a larger parking area, but students must then walk in an area with no sidewalks and cross the often busy street which provides the only access between rural Yellow Point and the highway.
"Speeding is a concern in there all the time. There's quite a few parents who are reluctant to park at the community hall because they're scared to cross the crosswalk."
Brown said police enforcement of the school zone is rare and drivers often give nasty gestures when urged to slow down.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools director of communications Dale Burgos said the district is well aware of the concerns.
"There has been a need for increased safety on that road for many years now," Burgos said.
When Ecole Davis Road closed in 2014, North Oyster's student population ballooned from 90 to now over 300. Burgos said after extensive discussions with the Ministry of Transportation and Cowichan Valley Regional District roughly four years ago, a request was made for a flashing crosswalk.
The province however deemed the request unnecessary, saying the area did not meet the criteria for the safety measure.
Burgos said ultimately the district is not in a position to fund infrastructure upgrades, instead focusing on educating students about road safety in the classroom.
In an emailed statement, the Ministry said staff appreciate receiving suggestions and "will be considering" the input from the North Oyster PAC. It also said it would communicate with RCMP about enforcement.
The online petition had over 670 signatures as of Dec. 7. Brown said they will likely deliver it to the Ministry once it hits 1,000.
"It feels very much like we are that forgotten school. We're not advocated for in Nanaimo or Ladysmith. We are quite a small community but we are mighty and we try our very best to bring awareness for our kids and get them the safety they need," Brown said.
On Twitter: @domabassi
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