WAUKEE, Iowa - As students in the Waukee Community School District returned for a new year of classes Wednesday, some also came back to campus with new traffic laws and safety features.
Last August, Kate Dressel, a student at South Middle School, was struck by a vehicle on her walk home from school. She sustained a head injury, causing her to miss months of the school year.
"It gave her headaches, almost 100% of the time," said Steve Dressel, Kate's father. "It affected her sleep, her balance, and her vision."
While Kate ultimately has recovered - though still battling daily headaches - this accident prompted the school district and city council to re-examine the safety of LA Grant Parkway, the main road passing the school.
As of Wednesday, the city and school district enacted several changes to the area to make it safer for students walking to and from school:
- an extension of a 35 miles-per-hour zone 600 feet south of the school, where the speed limit previously was 45 miles-per-hour,
- a change to 25 miles-per-hour near the school during pick-up and drop-off times,
- a brand new crosswalk with lights between the school and opposite sidewalk,
- a crossing guard and increased police officers near the school during pick-up and drop-off,
- new trails connecting the school to nearby neighborhood developments, where many students are walking from.
While Dressel's parents say she is doing much better, and actually walked to school Wednesday, they worry what happened to her could happen to someone at another school.
"We're not aware of any situation that is unsafe at this moment, but there are schools going up in Waukee every year. There's one going up right across the street," Dressel said. "So we're very conscious that something could slip up underneath our radar."
The Waukee Community School District says an 8th and 9th grade school will be opening just down the road from South Middle School next year, and as more school buildings develop on the south side, drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings.
"One of the biggest issues with schools, especially when they're on the development area, is speed," said David Wilkerson, Superintendent for the Waukee Community School District. "And if people will slow down, and be patient, it increases the safety tremendously."
Dressel agrees; the new safety features are only a part of the solution.
"It does take a community, though, to make safety," he said. "And the drivers have to be able to pay attention to this stuff, and pay heed to the lights, which call for them to stop and let people cross."