School Officials Pledge Cooperation Over Walk to School

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Ella Duncan regularly rides her bike home from Crozet Elementary with her father, Jim, who promotes walk-to-school initiatives on his blog, RealCrozetVA.com. Photo courtesy Jim Duncan.
Ella Duncan regularly rides her bike home from Crozet Elementary with her father, Jim, who promotes walk-to-school initiatives on his blog, RealCrozetVA.com. Photo courtesy Jim Duncan.

The Crozet Community Advisory Council returned to the subject of whether students can walk to local schools without risking punishment at its Sept. 15 meeting and heard from school officials that no policy prevents it.

Interim school chief operating officer Josh Davis reported that “The county attorney has said that parents can allow their children to walk to school.”

Davis said that no parents have approached the Brownsville Elementary School or Henley Middle School principals about their children walking, implying that the issue is overblown. Brownsville principal India Haun attended the CCAC meeting, too, but it conflicted with Back-to-School night at Henley, which prevented Henley Principal Patrick McLaughlin from coming.

CCAC chair Meg Holden answered that “Some people are not willing to step forward because their children are in the schools and they don’t want trouble.”

Davis said the principals are concerned about children arriving at the schools too early, before schools are ready to handle them. “They are willing to dialog about this,” he said. He said they are also worried about students possibly being struck by cars in the driveways and parking lots.

“If there is no policy prohibiting walking, I don’t feel the principals need to be approached about it,” said CCAC member Mary Gallo. “I feel the onus should be on the schools to communicate it out to families.”

CCAC member Jessica Mauzy, who also heads the Crozet Trails Crew, noted that the path from Old Trail to Henley was built six years ago by Henley students who were working under the supervision of county greenways planner Dan Mahon. “There is a design for the trail. Some equipment would be needed to change grades, but a lot can be done by volunteers.”

“We are interested in all infrastructure improvements,” answered Davis, accepting Mauzy’s offer to have the CTC work on the trail. He said Henley is also looking at adding a bike rack at the school.

Davis agreed that it is also “feasible and acceptable” for students to walk along Old Trail Drive to its corner with Rt. 250, where a macadam sidewalk leads on to the schools.

The CCAC asked the principals to promulgate a description of the walking and bike routes to the schools that they regard as safe.

“Walking to school is a healthy way to start the day,” said Haun.

National Walk to School Day was October 5.

In other business, the CCAC examined revisions to plans for Claudius Place, a two-story commercial building planned for Library Avenue. Developer Katurah Roell described changes to its appearance, all minor (such as limestone being replaced by bluestone) but enhancing. The plan will go back to the county’s Architectural Review Board for review next month.

Roell said he is looking for more committed tenants, such as a restaurant, to satisfy banks who are willing to lend for the building.

Roell said plans to develop the current Barnes Lumber Company property should go before the Planning Commission in December. A traffic study of the preliminary plans was completed in June and got two pages of comments in response from Virginia Department of Transportation engineers. He is going over the comments with county planners.

He said demand for commercial space will have to increase before the project will be viable. He said a bank has expressed interest in occupying a corner lot and he is talking with “a large high-tech firm” about the portion of the tract designated for light industrial use.

Supervisor Ann Mallek said she is pushing for a downtown Crozet connection to the fiber optic cable being installed from Charlottesville to Staunton.