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McGovern Middle Schoolers Banned from Walking Due to Poor City Planning

Mr. Ehrisman rightly dings his hometown for plopping a school in a neighborhood with no sidewalks and then banning students from walking. The absurdity of a pedestrian ban around George McGovern Middle School rankles on multiple levels:

  1. Cities should not build any public facility that can be accessed only by motor vehicle.
  2. Schools dedicated to teaching kids healthy lifestyles should never make a rule against walking.
  3. Local governments should spend less time bickering about jurisdiction (the city's "flagpole annexation" of 40 acres for the school and just a narrow strip to connect it to the city proper makes unclear who ought to lay footpath along the connecting road) and more time solving problems.
  4. Parents should not put up with the school's interference with their lifestyle choices. If George McGovern Middle School parents want their kids to walk home, then when the school calls to alert them that their children are walking, the parents should respond, "Yup, they sure are. What's it to ya?"

City Engineer Chad Huwe says a four-foot sidewalk in a developed urban area costs $25 per foot. A ten-foot-wide asphalt pedestrian path costs up to $140 per foot. Let's meet in the middle and say we could build some sort of walking path for George McGovern Middle Schoolers for $80 a foot. Let's say we need to build two miles of walking path around the school on Maple Street and Marion Road to the nearest housing developments. That's $844,800. If one bus route costs a school district $37,000 a year, the school district could pay for those two miles of sidewalk with the savings of eliminating four of its bus routes from McGovern over six years.

But if the city and county and school board can't find a way to make the kids safe, then it's up to us. I know it's asking a lot of Sioux Falls motorists who seem to think cars always have the right of way, but motorists, slow the heck down. Pay attention, share the road, and let those kids get to and from school.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.09.08

    1st conspiracy theory of the day. The school board decided to prevent children from walking to and from school in order to make the 1st Lady's healthy school lunch program fail. It is the 50th anniversary of the most famous political ad in history and wingnuts are still butt-hurt about it.

  2. Craig 2014.09.08

    The chances to eliminate bus routes is less than likely because the closest residential area is still close to 1.5 - 2 miles away. The majority of the kids who attend that school are bussed from the core of Sioux Falls (as part of the group which previously attended Axtell Park Middle School), so only a very small percentage would benefit from a walking path and even then it wouldn't eliminate the need for a bus but instead would simply give those kids the option of walking if they chose to.

    You can see the map here which helps understand why bussing is necessary to the school - there simply isn't any residential within the typical "non-bus" area:

    I'm not sure a ban on walking is a great idea (and technically this isn't a ban but rather an effort to get kids on busses rather than put them at greater risk), but I believe it is a stop-gap until they can improve the roads. Currently the roads leading to McGovern are county roads which means they lack a reasonable shoulder or even a level ditch. Parts of that road were still gravel prior to the school being built so there was never any thought about sidewalks.

    Adding a sidewalk or walking path would cost far more than it would in a developed area because there would be a considerable amount of dirt work. There are also trees that would need to be removed, utilities to relocate, and of course the issue of land ownership and responsibility since the person who owns that farmland is probably not keen on the idea of spending a million bucks of his or her own cash to pay for it nor would they be happy about a swath of their land being taken without compensation. You could pay for 25 years of 100% bussing before you could ever offset the cost of installing sidewalks, and even after they were built they would still only benefit a VERY small number of kids.

    As that area is developed (and there are plans to do so) this will begin to be a moot point as sidewalks come with residential development. The road will ultimately be widened all the way to I-29 and proper shoulders / sidewalks will be added - but these things take time.

    It wouldn't be a good use of taxpayer funds to install a walking path or sidewalks which would only be used for two or three years before being ripped out and replaced as the road and neighborhoods are developed/improved. This is why the school district opted for 100% bussing for every single student and why they even added a later bus for those kids who have after-school activities. The district is working with the families and putting the safety and well-being of the students ahead of convenience.

    Can you imagine the complaints if a kid was hit by a car as they walked along the edge of the road? The sun is in the eyes of a lot of drivers at the same time kids are walking to school... do we really want to risk it?

    Granted I understand why Scott has decided to beat this drum... because if he can find an excuse to complain about the city he isn't about to pass on it. He even uses his rant to include references to Walmart, the indoor pool and the Events Center - three things which he has been complaining about for the past two years on a weekly basis. Needless to say I'm not surprised he would find some reason - ANY reason - to complain about the city or school district. That's just his shtick, and I suppose since Walmart's plans are moving forward (supported by the voters), and because the indoor pool is moving forward (supported by the voters), and the Events Center was built (supported by the voters) he has to find something else to write (complain) about each week.

  3. JeniW 2014.09.08

    I am familiar with the nearby Marion Road. It is in the same general area where the the two men riding a tandem bike were hit.

    It is just downright unsafe for anyone not in a vehicle that surrounds them with metal.

    Would it be possible to install temporary blacktop walking/biking strips until the more permanent sidewalks can be placed?

    I wonder how much the district is paying for transporting the students to and from the school?

  4. JonK 2014.09.08

    The city should have planned to upgrade Maple St from Career Ave to the school before the school was built. They have a new school and fire station and future housing development but everyone has just a 2 lane road to drive on. I hope the Marion Road bridge they are replacing with a culvert north of the Marion and Maple intersection will be wide enough for a future four lanes.

  5. Anthony D. Renli 2014.09.08

    Corey - you say that they might be able to eliminate four bus routes? How. This would only affect the closest housing developments AND they would have to keep those buses running during the winter. You can't expect 6th, 7th and 8th graders to walk two miles to school when it's below freezing. Even if some kids would take advantage and walk, the bus lines would have to run anyway.

    Craig really says it best - this is Scott looking for something else to yell at the city government...basically because he's still sore that Kermit Staggers didn't win when he ran against Huether for mayor.

  6. Anthony D. Renli 2014.09.08

    and I just put an extra E in your name...
    feel free to mock me

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.08

    Hey, Anthoney, I recognize that bus routes are not determined in a linear fashion. The costs are a "for example" in relevant taxpayer terms. And sure, we have as much obligation to provide safe transportation for all children in inclement weather as we do to provide safe pedestrian and biking options in clement weather.

    But if we can't lay a sidewalk right now, why not drop the speed limit to 20 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Why not require motorists to accommodate pedestrians instead of assuming tht we all are obligated to travel surrounded by steel?

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