At Thursday’s Elementary School Building Committee meeting, Dr. Katlynn Bugda Gwilt, a resident of Concrete Rd., challenged the ESBC to improve the placement of crosswalks and implement other measures to slow traffic in advance of the opening of the new Center Elementary School in January.
“In my experience, when driving on Pleasant St., we encounter cars and heavy trucks in front of us in excess of my conservative speed of 35 – 40 mph,” said Bugda Gwilt in her statement to the committee. “I’ve personally spoken with the traffic enforcement at the police department and they have affirmed our findings and implemented short-term speed enforcement, but is that enough?”
The ESBC acknowledged a design oversight when extending the sidewalk in front of the elementary school complex. The remaining crosswalks for the school, seen in white and labeled “REM CW” in the diagram, above, are poorly positioned — particularly the one immediately adjacent to the entrance to the Roper Estates condo complex.
Moreover, there are few speed limit markings on Pleasant St., and drivers regularly speed down that stretch of road. She referenced a near-miss earlier this year where children were almost struck by a driver who was texting.
“My husband and I have entertained ourselves on countless occasions counting the number of cars that whiz past us at crosswalks as we wait to cross with our daughter and dogs,” she said. “My personal record is 13, with several of those drivers texting or otherwise distracted.”
In response, the committee and contractors laid out two new crosswalks with curbing that is ADA compliant and friendly for people pushing strollers or on bicycles. Those are marked in black on the diagram.
There are also plans to consider pedestrian buttons triggering flashing lights on demand, along with flashing 20 mph speed signs for school opening/closing times.
“Are we comfortable with no posted speed limit and drivers exceeding 40 mph near our main school complex and the high school?” asked Bugda Gwilt. “A long-term solution is needed here and by all of our schools. What is currently in place is inadequate.”
The ESBC also saw preliminary renderings of the History Wall to be placed in the new school. The design represents four greenhouses, with one representing the history of Tewksbury as the Carnation Capital, one sharing Line of March images and one for our schools, including the demolished old Center School. The final panel will represent the region’s Native American history. The panels will be colorful, in line with the bright tones used in the new school.
Those designs are being refined based on input from the ESBC, which was missing School Committee representative Keith Sullivan, member James Cutelis and Planning Board rep Eric Ryder.
“As the project approaches substantial completion, it is exciting to see such progress,” said Select Board representative Jayne Wellman. “I’m appreciative of the work on the history wall and the contributions of the Historical Commission and look forward to working with the architects on a faithful and lasting representation of Tewksbury’s rich history.”
A highlight of the meeting was a drone flyover of the current building, which the committee says will soon be viewable on the schools website.
“Overall, we’re pleased with the plan put forth by the town manager, as well as the urgency put forth by some of the committee members,” Bugda Gwilt told the Carnation.