By Brandi Makuski
It was a soggy Bike/Walk to School Day on Oct. 6 for students at McDill Elementary School.
The weather only compounded existing problems for those using the crosswalk at School St. and County Hwy. HH — the only route to school for dozens in the village.
Village leaders earlier this year installed two speed radars along the roadway, which is a main route for motorists and commercial truckers between Stevens Point, Plover and I-39. The road also navigates through a residential neighborhood.
“At this point, it’s really all we can do,” said Carol Lepak, a citizen-member of the Whiting Public Works & Parks Committee. “But if the information we collect from those radar signs can maybe wake up the county, it’ll be worth it.”
A solution to address speeding along the road has plagued the village for years, according to President Paul Stroik, but there’s little Whiting can do because it’s a county-owned road.
“Any action taken on that road will need to be done at the county level,” Stroik told the committee earlier this year.
But some parents have begun looking for alternative ideas. Earlier this year, one mother asked the village to pay for a set of neon flags pedestrians and bicyclists could carry while using the crosswalk, making themselves more visible to motorists.
While the cost would have been relatively small — an estimated price tag of $150-$200 was presented — the village declined, citing concerns over effectiveness and possible liability.
One mother from the neighborhood said she’s tired of waiting, and has decided to take action.
Jessica Haas of Whiting has been volunteering her time as a crossing guard at the intersection of County Hwy. HH and School St. since the school year began.
“The district doesn’t have the money [to pay for a crossing guard]; the village doesn’t want to take the responsibility and neither does the county,” Haas said on Friday.
Haas is an educational assistant at Plover-Whiting Elementary School in Plover. The school has allowed her to change her schedule there so she can be present to cross students every morning and afternoon during the week, Haas said.
Haas said she encounters speeding motorists on a daily basis, and recalled one driver who recently nearly struck her and the family she was crossing, but slammed on the brakes just in time.
“My ‘mama bear’ came out and I yelled at [the driver],” Haas said.
The intersection has been the subject of debate for several years, with residents concerned for safety at the school crossing, and a marked crosswalk of the Green Circle Trail about two miles to the west. The last official crossing guards, paid by the village, quit over concerns for safety at the school crossing in 2015.
Since then, the school district has offered busing for McDill Elementary students who otherwise would have to cross the busy street, and a mixture of parent volunteers and deputies have also helped kids cross safely.
“There’s selfish motives here,” Haas said. “If I lived across town, I wouldn’t know anything about this. But now I’m aware; I would never let my two [children] cross without me here.”