By John Schaffner

The structure of the new Sarah Smith School complex is taking shape and can be seen on its perch above heavily traveled Wieuca Road. But getting to the school when it opens in January may not be so easy for the students who live within a mile it and will need to walk there or be driven by parents.

North Buckhead Civic Association president Gordon Certain was passionate in his plea for help to protect the safety of the school children at the Aug. 13 meeting of Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods (BCON).

Certain pointed to what he says is a massive problem: Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has a policy against its buses transporting students who live within a mile of the school they attend, but within the one mile either direction of the school there are large areas where there are no sidewalks.

Students who live within one mile either side of the new school will not be able to hitch a ride on a school bus, and won’t find walking very easy either unless sidewalks are constructed before in opens.

Certain is afraid the sidewalk construction isn’t going to happen, because the city of Atlanta has no money for sidewalks during this budget crisis and the APS is only responsible for putting in sidewalks directly in front of the school property, which stretches about a block between Ivy Road and Whittington Drive.

Certain’s preference is for sidewalks to be put in along Wieuca Road, rather than trying to force APS to bus the kids from within one mile of the school. Why? As he told those attending the BCON meeting: “I think kids should have the ability to walk to school if they want to.”

Certain’s civic association has been studying the situation along Wieuca Road for months and the NBCA Traffic Committee Chairman Robert Sarkissian wrote an update of his group’s progress in the NBCA July newsletter.

Sarkissian wrote that planning to provide street and sidewalk infrastructure needed by the school has been moving along and has focused on three dimensions:

– The first involves traffic flow in the area adjacent to the school. “The school’s new driveway must be integrated with the existing roadway including egress and ingress access, signaling, signage and striping for vehicular traffic. A traffic flow concept for vehicles entering and leaving the school must be defined.”

– The second consists of improvements and safety-related mechanisms to ensure safety for student pedestrian traffic, such as “crosswalks, pedestrian-activated signals, adequate sidewalk networks, etc.”

– The third encompasses traffic calming and enforcement for the entire 1.8 miles of Wieuca Road from Phipps Boulevard to Roswell Road. “These plans include the establishment of a school zone that will be located approximately between the GA 400 overpass and Wieuca Trace.

Sarkissian states that all of the measures must be in place by January when the school opens “to ensure adequate safety for our students.”

Because the city does not have money for out-of-the-ordinary needs, “interim, low-cost solutions are being pursued where possible,” he wrote. He said City Councilman Howard Shook has been involved in the planning effort “and has been proactive in seeking the funding needed to complete these tasks in the relatively short time span remaining.”

Specific items in the proposed Wieuca Road Plan include pedestrian activated countdown signals on Wieuca Road at Ivy and Whittington, which would also serve as a means for vehicle traffic spacing and control in and out of the school in mornings and afternoons.

Crosswalks and all-way stops are needed for at least two Wieuca intersections — Loridans Drive and North Ivy.

Plans are being considered to raise the speed limit on Wieuca to 30 mph outside the school zone, which will allow police enforcement of the speed limit all along Wieuca with the use of radar devices (not permitted with the present 25 mph limit on Wieuca).