by Rachel Holtzman
After being battered by several snowstorms in quick succession, Westfield has focused on doing what it takes to reopen schools to faculty, staff and students this month. However, in the town’s haste to make main roads drivable, the safety of students of all ages walking and driving to school has been compromised.
Up until a rainstorm at the end of last week, conditions around several of the public schools were dangerous, with high snowbanks blocking drivers’ vision and icy sidewalks making it difficult to stay upright. On Rahway Avenue by WHS, some of the snowbanks were up to four feet tall. On the sidewalks near Edgar Road and First Street, students were forced to either walk on the ice and risk falling or to go into the middle of the street at the mercy of drivers. To avoid having to park in the middle of the street, some students regularly parked on sheets of ice.
According to westfieldnj.gov, a municipal ordinance requires residents with sidewalks to remove all ice and snow from them within twelve hours of daylight after a storm. One would think that the town would make this a priority, especially around public spaces. Yet it does not look like the Department of Public Works has taken any steps to remedy the safety issue in school zones.
However, staff in the public schools are still doing their best to make conditions safer. At Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, where some of the sidewalks are still iced over, Head Custodian Vinh Ho said that during a storm, he and his crew regularly shovel snow and salt the doorways, staircases and sidewalks. Ho added that every morning before school, he comes an hour early to salt the sidewalks and prevent any slip-ups that might occur.
This is the approach that we as a town should take. If the situation is going to change, we must have a civil, town-wide conversation about how we can pitch in to make this town safer for everyone attending school.