By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
For some students, back to school means the end of summer vacation, and for others it might mean a new challenge, especially for those who are beginning middle or high school. On Fort Knox it had an entirely different meaning—change.
Budget cuts and Army restructuring meant the number of on-post schools would decrease from eight to four. That also meant an increase in the number of students and changes to the grade levels at those remaining schools.
Although there were changes, things went smoothly, said Dr. Frank Calvano, the Department of Defense Education Activity Kentucky District superintendent. Van Voorhis Eleme-ntary School was one of the school affected by the decrease. Calvano said its enrollment doubled to 650 students.
Increasing students meant a slow-down in traffic because more students were riding the bus and walking to school. Having more students walking to school also meant an increased awareness in safety. Dr. Chris Rain-water, the Fort Knox director of safety, said parents voiced concerns about safety and the closeness of the side-walks on Conroy Avenue during a recent Facebook town hall hosted by Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, the comman-der of Cadet Command and Fort Knox.
After hearing these concerns Rainwater said his staff observed safety concerns Aug. 4, the first day students returned to on-post schools.
“Our main purpose was to observe any issues,” said Rainwater. “The primary issue was sidewalks leading up to the school and there was no barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway. We watched kids inadvertently step off the sidewalk while a vehicle was approaching, (which could have been) a disaster.”
Even though there weren’t any incidents, Rainwater was concerned about the lack of barriers which affects the safety of the children walking to and from school.
“(We) made sure children were walking (on) the inside of the sidewalk as far away from the street as possible and cars were slowing down,” explain-ed Rainwater. “(There) is a need for a separation (between the sidewalk and street) and we are working on that.”
After observing safety issues, Rainwater made suggestions to Col. T.J. Edwards, the commander of Fort Knox Garrison Command. Those suggestions resulted in changes being made. Pat Ryan, a civil engineer for the Directorate of Public Works' Business Opera-tion Integration Division, said guard rails will be added on the sidewalk on Conroy Avenue leading to the school.
“(There will be) hand rails on each side of the sidewalk and (we will) add a crosswalk leading into the school,” said Ryan. “(We are also) cutting (the vegetation) back.”
Ryan added that some of the changes will be seen Monday morning and work will begin on the guard rails as early as this weekend.
“We are looking at two to three weeks before completion, (and) 90 percent (of the work) will be done on the weekend,” Ryan said. “When we can, (we will) excavate (during the day) so traffic isn’t impeded.”
A fence is also being built on both sides of the sidewalk, said Ryan. Having the sidewalk means children will remain on the same side of the street while walking to and from school.