THUNDER BAY — The prospect of hundreds of additional transport trucks rumbling daily past a small rural school has caught the attention of the Lakehead District Public School Board.
Board officials say if Thunder Bay's plan to divert all heavy trucks to Highway 11/17 goes ahead, they may need to consider adjustments to existing safety policies at Kakabeka Falls District Public School.
Banning trucks from Dawson Road will force them onto a longer route through Kakabeka, where about 186 students attend a school that's right beside the highway.
Kakabeka Falls District Public School's principal, Deanna Hannaford-Wilcox, says the playground is located on the north side of the school, "quite a distance away" from the road.
That reduces the risk to student safety, and students are monitored to ensure they don't leave the property on their own, Hannaford-Wilcox said.
For safety reasons, "all the kids that are on the other side of the highway are eligible for busing, and are bused" to and from school, she said.
Students are not allowed to cross the road without supervision, while senior students who wish to leave the school property for lunch or another purpose require parental permission.
"They have notes. I sign them off. They sign out of the school. They sign back in the school," the principal said.
But in light of the potential dramatic increase in truck traffic past the school later this year, she said the policy may need to be reconsidered.
"Things may have to change. We have to kind of see what's happening, and move with the newness that's created around us."
Hannaford-Wilson said there's already been a discussion about that with staff.
No students' parents have approached her so far, she said, but she has heard from a couple of older residents of Kakabeka who expressed concern about the kids' safety.
She said the drivers of the seven school buses that transport Kakabeka Falls students, as well as the staff driving their personal vehicles, will likely have a more difficult time turning onto the highway.
"We have to have faith in the drivers to do their job and be diligent in the practice."
Lakehead District Public School Board trustees have not formally discussed the trucking issue so far, although there have been some informal discussions involving individual trustees.
That will change next week when Director of Education Ian MacRae brings the matter to the board's regular meeting.
"It's not an ideal situation, obviously, to have any trucks going by the school that close, never mind the number that will be going" now, MacRae told Tbnewswatch.
MacRae believes the existing safety measures for Kakabeka students have worked "quite well" over the years, but the board will conduct a review to ensure the precautions in place are appropriate.
He said board officials will present trustees with information and suggest what they feel is prudent under the pending change in circumstances.