Parents Worried About Battle H.S. Student Safety

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COLUMBIA - In August many students will attend Battle High school for the first time. The school's building, lockers, and football field are all new, but parents contacted KOMU 8 News about concerns over the old infrastructure in the area surrounding the school, particularly roads without sidewalks.

"They're going to be traveling there during the busiest time along with a lot of younger drivers, their friends. Kids are going to be distracted and eventually it's going to cause one student killing another student is my biggest fear... .My biggest concern is the kids from Demaret Dr. and Fairway Meadows which is right up the road," Brent Herin, a worried father of six, said.

Herin's biggest concern is parts of St. Charles Road less than a mile from the school.

"It has two blind curves and they are not provided busing since they live within a mile of the school," said Herin.

Michelle Baumstark, Columbia Public Schools' Community Relations Director, said generally the district does not provide busing for students who live within a mile of elementary or middle schools or two miles of high schools. Right now, 58 students live within two miles of Battle High School.

The district does make exceptions, but parents need to put in a hazardous route request if they live close to the school and want their kid to still ride a bus. The district will then review that request.

"That could be any number of things including whether a student has to cross a highway, if they have to cross railroad tracks, if there are sidewalks accessible to the student to be able to use to get to school safely," Baumstark said.

The school district said if you would like to put in a hazardous route request you can call the central office at 573-214-3400.

Long term, Herin said busing nearby students won't fix the problem. He wants the City of Columbia to build a sidewalk.

"They need to increase the size of the roads. They need to widen them and put curbs, sidewalks. There's a lot of things that need to be developed that they were in such a hurry to build the school in my opinion, but they didn't look and plan ahead to have these things in place for when the school opened," Herin said.

The City of Columbia's Development Services Manager, Pat Zenner, agreed that there is work to be done in that part of town, but he said right now the city can't do anything because much of the property near the high school belongs to Boone County. The city is in the process of annexing the land, but it won't make any improvements until it completes that process.

"There's a timing issue and it is delayed. I would suggest that probably by the end of this year we will have annexation completed," said Zenner.

Once that happens, any new development building in the area will have to install sidewalks, but Zenner said it will probably still be about five years before residents see major street improvements to already existing development like St. Charles Rd.

In the meantime, the city will consider other options like walking trails to make the roads safer for pedestrians. However, even those temporary improvements won't happen before school starts.

Zenner and Herin both feel driver awareness and caution is important when driving near students in that area.

Zenner also mentioned when Columbia Public Schools built Rock Bridge High school the area surrounding it was less developed than the area near Battle High school is today. He thinks it will become fully developed in the next 10 to 20 years.