By ESTHER MACINTYRE
SERIOUS student safety concerns have been raised around The Lake Primary School.
The catalyst for an upsurge in Cabarita community disquiet was a potentially life-threatening near-miss on Monday when a prep student narrowly avoided being hit by a car.
Safe access around the school has been an ongoing issue for the past 10 years, claims Cabarita Inc. – the progress group for the area.
And now that group is calling on Mildura Rural City Council to act.
According to Cabarita Inc., the issue is two-fold. The first issue is a lack of footpaths – both on Seventeenth St, and on Dyar Avenue, a thoroughfare for school pick-up and drop-offs.
“The first issue is the lake side of Seventeenth Street and access to the school crossing,” spokesperson Kim Trigg said.
“There’s a school crossing there but it’s useless because there’s no paths connecting it to a pedestrian footpath network.
“Students are crossing a busy highway with no control measures whatsoever, to the school side of Seventeenth St and onto the bike path.”
The second issue, Kim said, was Dyar Avenue, an extremely narrow road that by 3pm is lined with a hundred cars on either side and not a footpath in sight.
Vicky Ferguson is the grandmother and carer of five-year-old Seth, who came dangerously close to being hit by a car on Monday when walking home along Dyar Avenue.
“He walks to and from school with the 10-year-old girls, just two doors down,” Vicky said.
“As I was going down there to meet them halfway, there was a car approaching from the Seventeenth Street end – a mum going down to do the school pickup. Two cars just can’t fit on the road.
“So Seth was about three metres from the road and a car swerved off and came that close to hitting them that I nearly had a coronary,” Vicky said.
“It’s just a nightmare. If you were trying to get past the school and onto Seventeenth Street, it’s just ridiculous.”
Vicky admits traffic has become worse since COVID restrictions, with parents having to stay in their cars when collecting their children after school.
“But I would like to see school signs installed and a reduction in speed limit to 40kmh, just like every other school zone,” she said.
Kim says several parents have had meetings with councillors and the school with no result.
She also said there have been upgrades to other nearby roads, but the one-lane Dyar Avenue has missed out.
“Both Riverside Avenue and McEdwards Street have been maintained in the past five years or so and they’ve been widened with new bitumen, with a bit of a reserve on the edge for bike riders and pedestrians, but Dyar Avenue has been missed completely,” she said.
“Although we’ve brought it to the attention of Council on a number of occasions – one of the residents has even presented in Council chambers – still there hasn’t been any action.
“There’s been plenty of time for Council budgets to allow for an upgrade to that area and it just doesn’t seem to be a priority for them,” Kim said
A MRCC spokesperson told the ‘Weekly: “The Victorian Government guidelines for 40kmh school zones apply to streets where a school gate exists,” they said.
“In The Lake Primary School’s case, and following increasing student numbers, the school has created an additional entrance on Dyar Avenue.
“Council is, and has been, in discussion with school representatives in relation to a number of internal and external traffic management concerns around the school.
“The 40kmh school zone will be reviewed following these broader traffic management discussions.”
Cabarita Inc also says it has a solution.
“One solution would be to use the car park on the lake side (Lake Hawthorn) opposite the school,” Kim said.
“That car park could be used to take a bit of pressure off the school grounds, but because there is no pathway it’s not yet a feasible option for the students.”
“A common sense solution, I believe, is to use the lake perimeter and actually get the kids off the main roads and onto a safe walking trail that connects with the existing wetlands tracks of Mildura South.”