Building safety during construction


It’s not unusual to see lines of cars waiting to drop off or pick up children from class, but a major construction project is building up worries about extra traffic at a local elementary school. If you’ve driven on 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue, near I-229, you know which project we’re talking about. Workers are expected to complete the multi-million dollar project some time in 2020.

According to the city, about 28,000 drivers go through 26th Street per day, and about 12,000 use Southeastern every day. All those drivers have to go somewhere, so they’re using a few detours, including Bahnson Avenue. That’s why Harvey Dunn Elementary School leaders are taking extra precautions to handle more cars and keep students safe.

It’s easy to see Matt Kemper’s number one priority is his four kids.

“To watch them grow, especially in these early years is just really fun,” Kemper said.

Like so many parents at Harvey Dunn Elementary School, he’s getting used to taking them to and from school five days a week.

“It’s busy in the mornings. Just like every school is. You have your drop off times and pick up times. It’s hectic and parents probably want to pull their hair out,” Kemper said.

There are about 600 kids who go here, so there are already a lot of cars with parents dropping them off and picking them up. There is extra traffic this year, because the 26th Street project is two miles away.

“Oh, you can definitely tell a difference,” Kemper said.

Crews are lifting the intersection at 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue, 25 to 30 feet. The city and state are working together on the multi-million dollar project, which also includes the Interstate 229 interchange. This part of Southeastern is closed. Drivers can still weave through a lane of 26th Street, but it doesn’t take long for traffic to back up on a busy morning commute. That means drivers rely on detours, like Bahnson Avenue, which takes them right in front of Harvey Dunn Elementary School.

“On Bahnson, it turns into a four-lane road with cars trying to turn in and cars trying to go straight,” Kemper said.

“We’ve worked really hard to establish some good procedures to help the traffic flow as smoothly as we can,” Patti Pannell, Harvey Dunn Principal, said.

Pannell says there is a lot of cars going through in the morning.

“Because our start time kind of coincides with a lot of employers’ start times,” Pannell said.

Pannell says the school has been working with parents since last year to prepare them for increased traffic. Since the project will take a while, Pannell says being prepared was important to keep students safe.

“In the front of our building, we now have signs indicating where that drop-off zone should be and places where we don’t want people to park because it does tend to block traffic,” Pannell said.

These aren’t the only changes. Teachers know what to do in case the traffic makes students late.

“We have to adjust some of our expectations as well, and, you know, we didn’t start counting tardies at 8:05 like we usually do. We give them a little extra time. So, we had to be flexible and know sometimes it’s going to get backed up,” Pannell said.

No matter what the school does, it needs your help to prevent any tragic situations.

“We just encourage people to be very mindful of our kiddos who are walking and having to cross Bahnson with our crossing guards,” Pannell said.

“Have patience and to slow down, obviously, and just watch out for the kids. We have a lot of kids here who walk to school, so just be aware of that,” Kemper said.

As construction continues nearby, Kemper is glad the school is adapting, so he can focus on the one thing that matters most: his kids’ education.

“The experiences they get are awesome,” Kemper said.

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