Approximately 75 parents - mostly parents - attended a recent community forum to discuss safer student routes to side-by-side campuses of La Rosa Elementary and Cesar Chavez Junior High schools.
Parents complained about unsafe conditions around the schools and on Whitmore Avenue and Eastgate Boulevard that including speeding cars, inconsiderate parents and traffic congestion.
"They would like to see a little bit more presence of the police department," said Daryl Jordan, director of Engineering Services for the city of Ceres. "We explained that we have limited resources but that there is a rotation for stepped up patrols at each school."
The meeting, which was organized by the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children (CPHC), also was intended to help the city win a Safe Routes to School grant application for infrastructure improvements in the Whitmore/Eastgate vicinity.
"Last year we - this is the second year we applied for it - and got very close on the number of points but one of the things they kind of dinged the application for was the fact that there wasn't a lot of public outreach," said Tom Westbrook, the director of Community Development for the city of Ceres. "So this year Lourdes (Perez) from the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children was able to facilitate the outreach."
One of the participants was a presenter from the Safe Routes to Schools grant agency "so it was good for her to actually see all of the people that were there."
The $893,000 grant would help improve the route to both schools in east Ceres safer access from the west. Currently the south side of Whitmore Avenue does not have a continuous sidewalk between Mitchell Road and Eastgate Boulevard. Students are directed by crossing guards stationed at Mitchell/Whitmore to go to the north side where there is a continuous sidewalk, and then cross back south at Eastgate Boulevard. It's not an ideal situation.
Complicating matters is that 90 linear feet of land without a sidewalk east of Moore Road is county jurisdiction so the city had to strike a common agreement with the county to install the infrastructure improvements should the grant be awarded.
The grant would not only pay for sidewalks but would include curb and gutter, crosswalks and signage as well as a radar speed display to encourage motorists to slow down.
During the meeting Jordan informed the crowd of parents that all pedestrians should press the pedestrian crossing button at Mitchell and Whitmore. Pushing the button gives students and other pedestrians a full 20 seconds to cross the street as opposed to a rushed cycle without pressing the buttons on the poles.
A number of students have been hit by cars around Cesar Chavez Junior High School in the past year. In September a female driver of a white SUV struck a child off his bicycle and continued driving. Ryan Roton, 13, was bicycling eastbound on Whitmore Avenue on the north sidewalk due to a lack of bicycle lane improvements on the south side. He came to Boothe Road and started to cross Whitmore Avenue to the south side when a white small SUV came up to the intersection. The woman behind the wheel made a right turn onto westbound Whitmore Avenue and clipped the bicyclist. He fell to the ground and sustained abrasions to his leg and a swollen finger. The driver kept going.