ST. MARYS — With the region receiving its first snow of the season earlier this week, school officials are reminding residents to keep their sidewalks clear for local children.
“I see the kids when I’m going into work,” he said. “A lot of the kids will be walking or riding their bikes to school — it’s dangerous for them to do that if the sidewalk isn’t clear,” St. Marys Superintendent Jerry Skiver said.
He noted that unclear sidewalks can cause the students to walk in the street.
“Kids tend to take the path of least resistance,” Skiver said. “If there are tire tracks in the street where the snow has gone down, they’re going to take that rather than walk through the snow.”
The kids choosing to walk in the street would be an accident waiting to happen, he added.
“We don’t want the kids walking on the streets because it creates a hazard — that’s why the sidewalks are there,” Skiver said. “If the kids are using the streets and someone didn’t see them coming, especially if it’s snowing heavily, we could be looking at someone being seriously injured or killed.”
Under a St. Marys city ordinance, it is the resident’s responsibility to clear the sidewalks along his or her property.
According to city Ordinance 521.06 Duty to Keep Sidewalks in Repair and Clean, which is under the city’s general offenses code, every property owner or occupant abutting a public sidewalk in the city shall keep such sidewalk open, in repair and free from nuisance at all times.
Every owner or occupant of abutting lots and lands upon such sidewalks shall keep the sidewalks free from snow, ice or other substance that could cause any injury.
Also according to the ordinance, in the event that the property owner or occupant fails to remove snow or ice or other substance upon the sidewalks, the city, at its option, may remove the same and assess costs against such owner or occupant for the removal. Whoever violates the ordinance is guilty of a minor misdemeanor.
While removing snow from sidewalks is a resident’s responsibility, their snow-bound vehicles also pose safety risks to motorists. Under a St. Marys city ordinance, a vehicle can only be parked in the same spot on a residential street for 48 hours before it must be moved.
“Especially if you have kids in your neighborhood, it’s imperative your sidewalks are clear of snow,” Skiver said.
Business Manager Kurt Kuffner noted this is one of the issues the district takes in consideration when it is considering a two-hour delay — he is usually out driving the streets by 5:30 a.m. or 5:45 a.m. when there’s inclement weather.
“One of the many, many things we take into consideration when considering a two-hour delay for the start of school is whether there is a real probability for students to have to walk in the streets on their way to and from school, many times in the dark, because sidewalks in residential areas have not been shoveled following a heavy snow,” Kuffner said.
“We don’t want kids walking in the streets, if they feel they need to because walks have not been shoveled, without the advantage of daylight.”
He added the kids can be another hazard by walking on the street.
“Kids in dark coats, on a dark morning, walking on streets instead of sidewalks, with the motoring public not expecting to see kids walking in the streets, is certainly not a safe situation,” he said. “Once again, this is just one of many things we consider prior to calling for a delay.”
Kuffner noted some other items the district looks for when calling a delay or to cancel school.
“We also look at snow and the ability to stop our buses at bus stops,” he said. “I have a bus driving certification, so I know what it takes to stop a bus.”
He added students waiting for a bus tend to move in closer to the street when it snows — which is why residents should clear their sidewalks — which can also create a hazard for school buses.
“We don’t want the students to move in and at the last minute the bus goes to stop and slides and injures the kids,” Kuffner said.
He added the district has more concern with ice, especially black ice.
“We’re not as concerned with snow as much as we are with ice, especially black ice,” Kuffner said. “The kids can fall on their bikes, they can fall walking on ice, the buses can’t drive on it. It’s unexpected.”
Skiver noted the district will make the call early for a delay to give residents notification so they can get to their walks.
“We’ll make the call early, so that will give residents a heads-up so they can get their walks clear,” he said.