Murray's newest school board member is faced with his first big educational dilemma: children's safety or his front lawn.

For now Earl Townsend's holding on to his grass.At least until the Murray Board of Education decides what action to take on a study that pinpoints the 14 most hazardous walking areas in the school district.

The study, by an ad hoc committee, was launched last summer at the request of residents in the Atwood-Meadowview area - where Townsend lives. Parents said children walking to and from Parkside Elementary School are at risk because there are few sidewalks.

But many residents, including Townsend, don't want a sidewalk.

That's because most are retired "empty nesters" and don't see the benefit to them, said Scott Stanger, assistant city engineer. Plus, they'd have to pay for a sidewalk.

Six years ago, Townsend and others lost some of their lawns when the city resurfaced their street, installing new curb and gutters. Some residents opposed a sidewalk then - and haven't changed their minds since.

"He (Townsend) would lose another 6 feet of lawn at the side of east side his home," Stanger said.

But Townsend also wants to help children's safety. So what's a school board member to do?

With city officials, he and other board members will evaluate findings of the 15-person committee, which reviewed all streets feeding into city schools.

The committee identified 14 hazardous streets in the district that could be made safer for children (see page B2).

The most hazardous ones - Atwood Avenue, the intersection of Vine Street and 5300 South, and the east end of Meadowview Road - are pathways for Parkside Elementary students.

"My biggest concern is that kids can get here safely," Parkside Principal Carolyn Schubach said. "As far as whose responsibility it is, that is yet to be determined whether it is the school district's responsibility to bus because it's a hazardous area or the city's responsibility to provide sidewalks."

It likely will be a joint effort.

James Cooper, supervisor of special services for Murray School District, said there are some hazards that neither the board of education or district can deal with.

For example, on Topowa and Utahna, high school students drive too fast. That's a problem for police. The safety of Hillcrest Junior High School students crossing 5300 South to have lunch at a fast-food restaurant may be in the hands of motorists.

"Some (of the problems) can't resolve without help of motorists and police and education programs in the schools," Cooper said.

There's another option. Murray School District may have to start busing more students, which will cost the district more money.

The state will pay for busing only for students who live more than 1.5 miles from the school. Parkside Elementary is closer than that to the Atwood-Meadowview area, so the district would have to bear the cost to bus those students.

Cooper said that would cost the district about $7,000 a year.

"That's a decision that will be made by the board," he said. "It's a decision that has far-reaching implications."

Parents of children in other hazardous areas could request the same consideration.


(additional information)

Murray's most hazardous walking areas:

Intersection of 5300 South and Vine Street

East end of Meadowview Road

Atwood Avenue (about 300 East, between 4800 South and 4500 South)

300 West from 5900 South to 6400 South

6100 South from State Street to 300 West

5900 South from State Street to 180 West

State Street from 5300 South to 5600 South (east side)

6400 South and 725 East

700 West and 5300 South

Fashion Boulevard from 5600 South to 6100 South

5600 South from Fashion Boulevard to State Street

5300 South from State Street to 300 East

Topowa Drive

Utahna Drive