The City of Seattle plans to reopen a problem-plagued pathway near Lowell Elementary.
The popular cut-through was shut down last year after dirty needles and human waste were found littering the area that sits between the school building and the school playground.
In a letter to community members, the Seattle Department of Transportation said the pathway will be reopened "beginning on September 1 or thereabouts."
The Seattle Department of Transportation's plan is to allow public access only when school is not in session. The gate granting access to the path would be locked 30 minutes before the first bell and remain locked until 30 minutes after the last bell.
For the 2017-18 school year, that means the path would be closed from about 8:25 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. on school days.
SDOT calls it a compromise that "will achieve the goals of both student safety and community access." But upon hearing of SDOT's plans, some Lowell Elementary parents expressed concern.
"If they've made a plan to re-open this, they need to have a clearly articulated plan on how they're going to still maintain the safety of the students, because the last thing we need in this city is a lawsuit about a child getting stuck and injured by a needle," said parent Marina Gray.
Gray was part of the group of parents that pushed for the path's closure in 2016.
She worries that SDOT's current plan to reopen the problem-prone path fails to address the issue of ongoing maintenance.
"Before school starts, when the kids come out to play on the playground in the morning, there needs to be assurances that someone has done a clear sweep of the area," she said. "The safety of the kids is the absolute most important thing."Lowell PTA Vice President Cedar McKay says he's fielded calls from several parents who share Gray's fear.
"Particularly who is going to be responsible for opening and closing the gates and who is going to be responsible for cleaning up. We feel like it has to be cleaned up daily, because dirty needles in the bushes which are found not every once in awhile, they are found frequently – they need to be cleaned up frequently. Once a month is not at all good enough," said McKay.
SDOT said they will do whatever it takes to keep the path clean and safe, even if that means sending crews out every morning to pick up dirty needles.
A spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools said the district will be working closely with SDOT to address any issues that may arise. The school will ultimately be responsible for locking and unlocking the gate each day. School staff will also help serve as SDOT's eyes and ears if additional sweeps and clean-up are necessary at a certain time of day.
SDOT feels this plan strikes the right balance between student safety and public access to the cut-through.
"I've heard from parents who don't want a middle ground solution. They want the path closed 24 hours a day, seven days a week because they don't think the city is really going to send someone out to clean up every single day," said McKay.
Students at Lowell Elementary head back to school on September 6, just days after the path is slated to reopen.
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