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CHICOPEE — With recent accidents happening between students and cars over the last year, the School Committee and City Council have began looking at plans to help protect pedestrians.

At the Feb. 6 City Council Meeting, a council order was passed for the city’s Engineering Department or an outside consultant to study the possibility of a traffic light at the entrance to Bellamy Middle School on Pendleton Avenue.

At-large City Councilor Timothy Wagner and Ward 1 City Councilor Abigail Arriaga filed the order.

Wagner said, “This is something that I got quite a few calls toward the end of my tenure on the School Committee with some dangerous traffic situations that took place outside Bellamy School. It’s the first step in a long process.”

In November and December of last year, two separate accidents occurred where a child was hit by a car outside of Bellamy Middle School while walking on the crosswalk.

Luckily the Chicopee Police Department at the time said both were minor crashes with little to no injuries but Arriaga discussed the importance of needing to do something to ensure safety for the students.

Arriaga said, “Not only do I represent the ward, but my son goes there so I get to talk to a lot of the parents with there children who also go there. I am there every morning and every afternoon. I have witnessed a lot of these incidences firsthand. I have seen crossing guards almost get hit, parents, students. It’s scary, it’s dangerous and we really need to do something. We need to children safe.”

The conversation about student and pedestrian safety around the schools continued during the School Committee meeting on Feb. 7.

Chicopee Public Schools Transportation Director Shelley Dellaquila has been working with Massachusetts Department of Transportation who administers a Safe Route to School program.

Since Dellaquila couldn’t be at the meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Carol Kruser shared the update.

“They have been mapping the arrival and dismissal observation at all the schools, looking to see what the issues are. They are doing walk audits to look at crossing areas and crossing staff. They have also sent all the addresses to the safe routes to school program, and they are taking the addresses and making radius maps of all the schools so we can then sit down and talk about the results that they found and how we can increase pedestrian safety, bicycle safety,” Kruser shared.

In the spring, the Massachusetts program will also be partnering with the schools to have assemblies at the elementary and middle schools that will address pedestrian safety and bicycle safety.

Superintendent Marcus Ware also discussed the idea of certain schools implementing a walking school bus.

According to the Walking School Bus website, “A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school to as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.”

The walking school bus can also work with children who ride their bikes to school by making a bicycle train where adults can supervise those who ride to school.

Ware said that he meets with each school principal once every couple of weeks to discuss concerns and solutions and he added that a few principals have talked about potentially implementing a walking school bus at certain schools.

Ware added, “We are going to have a bigger conversation about that. I relayed to the principals in the recent district in which I was at, we had the walking school bus for a lot of our neighborhood schools because sometimes we don’t pay attention to the fact that the walking school bus is a method of transportation for families who are not mobile or unable to make sure their child has a safe way or be with a responsible adult to get to the school.”

Ward 4 School Committee member Sandra Peret talked about the motion for a traffic light study that was filed at the City Council meeting.

She said, “It was great to see the motion by our City Councilors Mr. Wagner and Mrs. Arriaga to have a study for a traffic light at Bellamy and Pendleton. It’s wonderful to see all of our city elected officials committed to increasing the safety for our children.”

Ware said he will have more updates at the next School Committee meeting about increasing pedestrian safety.

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