Safety concerns raised over southern Colorado school zone, county responds | #schoolsaftey

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Concerned citizens are asking for changes to one southern Colorado school zone, saying they’re worried it could only be a matter of time before a serious crash happens.

School in the Woods, an Academy District 20 school, is in the Black Forest area on Vollmer Road. Citizens speaking with 11 News say, they’ve voiced concerns about people speeding through the school’s school zone to county leaders for two years.

“Why can’t we be proactive? What’s wrong with being proactive when kids are the concern?,” Richard Hegeman said. He lives across the street, and says he regularly sees people driving well above the posted speed limit. “In my mind, it’s going to be a sad day when something happens, and it’s going to.”

While School in the Woods does have a school zone, it does not come with a reduced speed limit. The implications of the school zone, which is marked by two signs on each side of the school, is that drivers face higher fines if ticketed. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour, but no speed limit sign is visible from the front of the school.

El Paso County Public Works Deputy Director Jack Ladley says his office first knew about the concerns in August. Soon after that, Ladley says data was pulled going back to 2015, showing no crashes have happened in front of School in the Woods in that timeframe.

And– concerns aren’t just coming from neighbors. Ladley says his office became aware of the concerns because an Academy School District 20 safety expert reached out.

In response, Ladley says a left turn lane into the school parking lot will be added in 2024 to help with traffic congestion at pick up and drop off times. Whether or not any additional changes will come to the school zone depends on what data is collected from the speed monitor placed in front of the school in late August.

Ladley says, community concerns alone cannot necessarily justify traffic engineering changes. He says state and federal school zone guidelines, referred to as “warrants,” dictate what changes his office is allowed to make.

“Is a lower speed limit warranted? Is a stop sign warranted? Is a crosswalk warranted? Is a signal warranted? If we don’t meet those warrants, we should not do those things. This is a situation where we’re currently not meeting the warrants for some of the requested items.”

When looking at the speed monitor in front of the school on Tuesday, 11 News crews saw multiple drivers speed past the school despite the monitor’s ‘slow down’ message.

Hegeman says he and other residents would like to see flashing lights on the school zone signs, and turning and/or merging lanes added to reduce congestion during pick up and drop off times. They’d also like trees trimmed back in one spot where the vegetation covers the sign.

Ladley also says his office reached out to the El Paso County Sheriff to ask if more patrolling could be done in front of the school. 11 News has yet to get a response from the Sheriff’s Office on whether or not patrolling will increase at School in the Woods.

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