Middle School braces for traffic woesMinnesota project blocks a main route to MMS as school opens Monday
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Mitchell Middle School Principal Brad Berens is concerned that construction zones near his school could create safety issues for students when school opens Monday.
The school is near a cone-zone as West Seventh Avenue and a section of North Minnesota Street are being readied for paving.
“It’s going to be a big problem, and I’m worried,” Berens said. “You have kids on bikes, kids walking, buses and people dropping students off. People need to allow a generous amount of time to pick up and drop off students, because traffic will be moving slowly.”
Mitchell Public Works Director Tim McGannon said Thursday his crews will work hard to have the Minnesota and Seventh crossing open as soon as possible.
He said his department will try to avoid work conflicts with the school’s opening or closing times, but he stopped short of offering any guarantees.
“We’re going to try to have Minnesota open as gravel as much as possible, probably as early as next Monday or Tuesday,” McGannon said. “Then we will close Minnesota intermittently when we have to work on it.”
Asked why the project wasn’t scheduled so it wouldn’t conflict with the school season, McGannon said the city had to find a time that would fit with its own schedule as well as those of its subcontractors.
An outside contractor, not the city, will do the final paving. McGannon said Minnesota Street as well as four blocks of construction on West Seventh Avenue should be open and paved by mid- to late September.
While the school’s official address is 800 W. 10th Ave., the actual driveway entrance is off West Eighth Avenue, which can be accessed from Minnesota Street to the east, or the Highway 37 bypass from the west.
McGannon said Minnesota Street also connects to the bypass to the north, as well as to 12th and 15th avenues.
“We understand it will be inconvenient to some degree, but we can’t build a road without inconveniencing somebody,” he said.
Mitchell Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Oveweg said, “People are going to have to make sure to pre-plan their routes, and to use alternate routes, because Seventh Avenue will be closed.”
He said backups in the Seventh Avenue area will undoubtedly increase as Main Street shuts down for next week’s Corn Palace Festival.
Historically, there have been no crossing guards at Mitchell Middle School, Overweg said, and none will be posted there Monday, but police will be cruising all school areas.
As school opens there will be an adjustment period for students and drivers, Overweg said.
“Drivers need to be aware of kids on sidewalks and at all crosswalks,” he said, reminding drivers that they must yield to any pedestrian standing in a marked crosswalk.
Crossing guards will be posted at all three elementary schools, including crossings at:
n First Avenue at Longfellow Elementary School;
n Kimball Street at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School; and
n Norway Avenue at L.B. Williams Elementary School.
“Slow down to 15 mph. Once a crossing guard holds up a sign you must stop,” Overweg said. “You cannot go until the guard puts down the sign, otherwise it will be treated as a regular stop sign violation.”
There will be unmonitored cross walks at John Paul II Elementary School and at Mitchell Christian School.
Drivers also need to be mindful of school buses and begin slowing down when they see yellow flashing lights. Drivers must stop, in both directions, when a school bus’ red lights start flashing.