INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Parents and neighbors are worried about where the sidewalk ends near a new elementary school on East 31st Street South and South Hardy Avenue. The group of concerned citizens includes Mayor Eileen Weir, who lives in the neighborhood next to Cassell Park Elementary.
The issue also impacts Korte Elementary School and Nowlin Middle School, which also are located on Hardy Avenue.
"There really is a safety issue," Weir said about the lack of sidewalks. "There's absolutely no doubt about it."
The problem was on display Thursday afternoon when 41 Action News first visited the area around the new school, as parents and kids walked home from school on the narrow shoulder of Hardy Avenue.
"We try to stay within the white lines as we come in," James Brownbill, a parent and grandparent who also walks the neighborhood kids to school, said.
It's a nail-biting scenario for people who live in the area.
"I can't believe they'd build a school and not put sidewalks in for kids to walk on it," resident Charles Poling said. "It's absurd,"
According to Weir, there was demand in that area for a school and the district already owned the land.
The lack of sidewalks? That's a problem all over Independence.
The city will implement a new sidewalk program in 2020 with the funding coming from a recently renewed streets sales tax.
Previously, there was no funding mechanism for sidewalk construction, Weir said.
The city is still determining criteria for the program, but factors like pedestrian accident history, traffic volume and proximity of schools will be considered. Feasibility of building sidewalks in a given area also will be a part of the decision-making process.
"I'll fight very hard to make sure this is a priority area," Weir said, referring to the neighborhood around Cassell Park.
However, a fix may not be that far down the road.
"The superintendent, Dr. (Dale) Herl, and I have also talked about some other programs we could use in this area to start construction of sidewalks sooner,"Weir said.
She pointed out the problem exists at other schools in the city, including near Fairmount and Sugar Creek elementary schools, both of which were transferred from Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools.
For some parents and neighbors, sidewalks along 31st and Hardy can't come soon enough.
"They need to get sidewalks in and do it now," Poling said.
According to the city's website, a project to add sidewalks near Korte Elementary is in the pre-construction phase.