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Better Lighting Called For After Student’s Death Double-Shifting Puts Kids On Dark Streets

Thu., Nov. 13, 1997

Parents upset by the death of a Post Falls Middle School seventh-grader Monday evening say the city needs better lighting to prevent similar accidents.

The area where 13-year-old Nicholas Scherling was killed on Seltice Way near McGuire Road has no street lights. Some parents say the streets next to the middle school are not sufficiently lighted either.

Because of double-shifting, kids are arriving and leaving the school in the dark every day.

Parents fearful for the safety of their children blamed voters for not passing school bonds that led to the double-shifting. Others questioned whether double-shifting is the best solution for the district’s crowded conditions.

Their most immediate concern is lighting.

Teresa Bond noticed the problem recently when picking up her daughter Racheal after school.

“They (the students) had all started walking home and you can’t see them,” she said.

Scherling was going home after attending the second of two shifts at the middle school. He was hit by a pickup driven by a woman police say had been drinking.

Scherling lived near Suzi Kamps’ business, Idaho Iron on Seltice Way. Kamps said the lack of lights is a problem even when children aren’t attending the late shift at the nearby school.

“I’m not letting that lady off the hook for (alleged) drinking and driving, but definitely we need to see more lights out here,” Kamps said.

“People are going 45 (mph) through here and if it’s dark, they can’t see the kids,” she said, explaining that children often ride bicycles, rollerblade and pull wagons near her store.

She wants the city to invest in schools and in better lighting.

“They’re putting all that money into a new city hall with a new clock tower and how bad do we need that?” she said.

Gail Worden, a member of the school’s parent-teacher association, also complained that the middle school itself is well-lighted, but the streets around it are dark.

Don Boyk, middle school principal, said the school has made an extra effort to stay well-lighted with the double-shifting.

The lack of sidewalks also makes it dangerous for students, said Linda Seed, whose daughter attends the same second shift Scherling did.

The public works director, city engineer, city administrator and mayor were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Some parents blame the 37.5 percent of Post Falls voters who voted against the last school bond issue for Scherling’s death.

“The district is doing what they can do, and so are the bus drivers,” said Lynne Carroll, whose son attends the morning shift at the middle school. “The community has to wake people up and pass the school bond.”

Sherri Floyd, the mother of sixth- and eighth-grade boys at the middle school, said she holds the taxpayers who didn’t pass the school bond responsible for Scherling’s death.

“What did they save, a couple of dollars a month?” she said.

Some of the students at the middle school were so upset over Scherling’s death they talked of staging a walkout to urge the community to pass the next school bond.

“They want people to realize how important a new school is,” said Michelle Bell. Her seventh-grade daughter was one of Scherling’s classmates.

“They don’t know what to do, but they want it to be constructive.”

Many parents say the schools have done everything possible to ensure the safety of students. The school has extended its bus routes so that all students who otherwise would walk to and from school may ride the bus when it’s dark.

“Certainly, we always at the district look at providing the safest environment for kids,” said Jerry Keane, assistant superintendent.

Others say that while the overcrowded schools are a problem, the school district could have chosen other ways to deal with it than sending students to school in two shifts. Some worry about kids with too much time on their hands getting into trouble.

“As far as the short-term option, they could put portables, even on the football field, if they had to,” said Vicki Caughran, president of the middle school’s parent-teacher association.

“Even if we pass the bond, that’s still two more years before we’d have the new high school, two more years of trouble.”

She also would like to see a crossing guard, more police patrolling the schools and would like parent groups to buy reflectors for students to wear on their backpacks.

But each of the parents agreed that what the district needs most for students’ safety is to pass a school bond and build a school. That way, kids would neither have to cram into portables nor go to and from school in the dark.

“They (students) want this so bad,” Bell said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


 

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