Three students hit by car in school crosswalk

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - City and school officials have voiced their intent to discuss options to make the school crossings safer. This crosswalk sees a lot of pedestrian traffic each day, as high school students must use it to reach their buses after school.In the face of a recent accident, the city of Estacada and the Estacada School District have voiced their intent to band together to make sure that school street crossings are safe.

Three teenage girls were struck by a vehicle as they walked the crosswalk between Estacada High School and Junior High School near Northeast Sixth and Main around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, March 12.

The Sandy Police Department, which provides service in Estacada, responded to the scene.

Officer Sam Craven said that to his knowledge, none of the girls appeared to be seriously injured.

However, the girls, ages 13 and 14, were all taken to the hospital for evaluation.

The driver, Alberto Rojas, 23, of Beavercreek stayed at the scene and cooperated with authorities.

Craven said that Rojas had been on the way to a jobsite in Cascadia Ridge that he had never been to before and was looking for the high school as a landmark.

Rojas’ lack of familiarity with the area and a strong glare probably contributed to the accident, Craven said.

Rojas was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The accident sparked an outpouring of concern.

Bus Driver Glen Lohr said that as he waits daily for students to be let out of class, he’s witnessed numerous near-misses at that crosswalk.

“Cars don’t stop for kids in these crosswalks,” he said.

Lohr said he thinks a flashing pedestrian sign should be installed.

The crosswalk itself is frequently used, as the high school students must make their way to the Junior High side of the street to catch their buses.

The evening of the accident, Estacada Mayor Brent Dodrill made an appearance at the Estacada School District Board of Directors meeting.

“I just want you to know, from the city’s perspective, we want to do all we can to keep all these streets in front of our schools as safe as we can,” Dodrill said to loud applause.

Dodrill indicated the city would be open to hearing from the school district about ways to make the school crossings safer as the city enters its budget season.

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Is it safe enough? Three students were struck by a car as they traversed this crosswalk between the junior high and high school on Wednesday, March 12. Luckily, none were seriously injured, but the incident has prompted an outpouring of concern.Estacada Junior High School Principal Tina Rhue said she had been hoping to get flashing signs in front of the schools.

“We can never prevent everything from happening, but we’ll just re-examine our policies and look at things and see what we can do to be as safe as possible,” Rhue said.

“It’s got us all shaken a little,” said City Manager Bill Elliott in a later interview. “We hate to see kids get hurt.”

Elliott said he spoke with School Board Member Ralph Branson the day of the accident, but no specific course of action has yet been set.

“I’ve been really nervous about that place for quite a while,” Branson said.

Dodrill said later that he’d asked city staff to compile a history of accidents near the schools to determine whether accidents like the one on March 12 had precedent.

“We need to do some good accurate research about the problem, if there is one,” he said. “I just want to make sure we have all the facts (instead of) making a knee jerk decision.”

Dodrill said he would like to sit down with the district to consider options.

In a later interview, Rhue explained that even prior to the accident she had been in contact with the mayor about potential improvements for the school crossings.

Over the years, Rhue said, several policies have been adopted to keep junior high students safe while walking off school property.

For instance, parents are required to come into the building to pick up their students from school dances.

Police presence near the school crossings also has been increased.

As for the three girls, they’re on the mend.

“They’re all improving,” said Rhue, who visited each recovering girl’s home with Counselor Karin Thomas bearing a stuffed tiger and a balloon.

Meanwhile, junior high students have been busy writing “get well” cards to the girls.

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