CINCINNATI — The 75 second-graders who cross Edwards Road to Hyde Park School’s temporary classrooms each morning do so in pairs, holding hands, accompanied by a pair of teachers who stretch a bright yellow rope across the street to catch drivers’ attention.
It doesn’t always work. On Feb. 27, a car turned off nearby Observatory Avenue and directly into the crowd of children.
None were hit, but “a lot of them got pretty scared and were crying,” mother Kristin Hunter said Tuesday, choking up as she remembered it. “And then one had a panic attack. Yeah. They were pretty scared.”
So was she. So were other parents. It wasn’t the first time something similar had happened.
Overcrowding at Hyde Park School has forced administrators to send some students and teachers away from the main building and to temporary classrooms across the street.
The students cross Edwards Road twice each day, according to parents: Once on their way to the classrooms at 8 a.m. and again at 12:25 p.m. as they return to the main building for lunch.
“This is really scary for parents,” Hunter said.
At a Monday night meeting of the Cincinnati Public Schools board of education, another mother — Liz Baker — demanded for the second time that the district work harder to ensure the students’ safety.
“I came to you last month and encouraged you that you have the opportunity to be proactive about keeping the kids safe,” she said. “As of last Thursday, you were this close to being forced to make that decision retroactively.”
Cincinnati Public Schools spokesperson Frances Russ announced Tuesday the district had purchased reflective vests and high-visibility flags to make students and teachers more visible to drivers in the future.
A committee of school administrators and parents will meet Wednesday to discuss other measures the district can take to protect students on Edwards Avenue.
“The district is confident that the committee will determine the appropriate safety measures for these students,” Russ wrote.
Fifteen Cincinnati Public Schools students have been struck by cars since the start of 2019, according to local traffic safety advocate Derek Bauman.
The district voted to join a nationwide pedestrian safety initiative called Vision Zero in September of the same year, just a few days after the first anniversary of 15-year-old Western Hills University High School student Gabriella Rodriguez’s death.
What happened to Rodriguez, who was hit by two different cars while crossing Harrison Avenue on her way to a bus stop, is what the parents at Hyde Park School worry will happen to their own children.
“To think of a car turning onto your kids is scary,” Hunter said.