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Projects to improve student pedestrian safety at several Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Keeping students safe at school is always the number one priority, but it isn’t confined to what goes on inside the walls. For some Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools, they’re improving their safety measures outside as well; particularly near the roadways. But in the case of a high-priority project, they’re in a race against the clock.

If you travel down Northwest Boulevard in between the hours of 6:30 and 9 a.m. and 2:45 and 4 p.m., you know it can be dangerous. Northwest Boulevard runs between Wiley Middle and Reynolds High schools, and it is often lined with vehicles on both sides.

“It’s just wall to wall; cars, pedestrians and school buses,” said Wiley Middle School Principal Lisa Bodenheimer.

In between the above hours, students sometimes have to get from campus to campus. There is an underground tunnel designed to get them back and forth safely, but many students opt to cross above ground; stepping into the roadway from an obstructed view due to the vehicles parked alongside.

“You have to be on your toes,” said Marcia Cole, who lives in the area and has a daughter who attended both Wiley and Reynolds. “You just cannot stop looking for a second.”

As part of the WS/FCS 2016 bond projects, there will be student safety and transportation improvements at both Wiley and Reynolds, as well as Southeast Middle School, Meadowlark Elementary and Middle and Parkland High School.

“If you travel this road regularly, you know when to anticipate school’s getting in and out for Wiley and Reynolds,” Bodenheimer said. “Hopefully we can do some good community communication so that they know and value that safety is the priority.”

As of last Tuesday, John Davenport Engineering was approved for the Wiley and Reynolds project, according to Colon Moore with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system. Moore tells FOX8 that the design phase began late last week.

Moore said that traffic studies will be conducted and modifications will be made to fix parking, but he anticipates on-street parking to remain. Moore also said they want to make restrictions to pedestrian traffic. Moore does not anticipate a full closure of Northwest Boulevard, but there will be a more detailed plan once the design phase is completed. The work will take place between Hawthorne and Reynolda roads.

However, the school system said they have to complete the project before the Business 40 Project is officially underway; resulting in the closure of a portion of Business 40 as early as the end of 2018. Although the DOT is not publicizing Northwest Boulevard as a possible alternate route, the school system anticipates heavier traffic on the road due to locals who are aware of it.