The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

New walk zones, new dangers

Zada educates readers of the new LM walk zone policy and delves into the harms of such a plan.

Starting in September of 2024, all students in LMSD will experience a significant change in their school days. Later start times will be accompanied by the introduction of a new initiative: the extended walk zone. These changes come with concerns.

A potential worry regarding this new walk zone is a decrease in student safety. The expanded walk zone will force more students to walk to school, which means they will have to cross roads with high motor vehicle traffic volumes like Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood Road, Lancaster Avenue, and others.  Moreover, students will be walking to school during the  7:30 to 8:30 AM period, a primary rush hour for adults driving to work. They will also have to make this trek during the winter, which could potentially occur before the full ascent of the sun. These factors significantly increase the risk for pedestrian accidents. Furthermore, late afternoon bus routes to areas within the 1.5 mile walk zone radius will be removed. This means that any student participating in an afterschool activity, if a ride is not available, will be subject to walking home in the dark, sometimes in inclement weather or on roads without sidewalks – amidst vehicular traffic hazards.

Graphic by Ilana Zahavy’24/Staff

According to the LMSD website, “LMSD Smart Start” is an initiative made to fix any inadequacies in the sleep schedule and improve the health of students. Excluding the idea of extending this walk zone, the implementation seems like it would work – pushing back start times and thereby giving students more time to sleep. However, students who live in the extended walk zone might have to wake up at the same time as before the change to embark on a lengthy trek to school. Depending on where you live, your walk to school could take anywhere from five minutes to over thirty minutes. In the case of a long walk, there are increased safety risks, and it is not a stretch to say it may directly hinder education – whether due to missing class, or lack of sleep. 

The impact goes beyond the students. Parents will have to either cope with the burden of their child walking longer distances to school with the increased safety risks (such as walking in the dark on high volume streets) or they will have to drive them to or from school, which could significantly disrupt the schedule of a busy parent. It is curious that the expanded walk zone was not mentioned to parents along with the new start times. Considering that one is a product of the other, it seems only logical that they be presented together to allow for an informed and fair vote. LMSD’s failure to do so not only reflects a disregard for reasonable parental concerns, but also suggests that LMSD may have known parents would be uneasy with the expanded zone under the circumstances.  

While the intention behind the changes is to enhance student well-being, the risks cannot be ignored. Considering the consequences created by the newly introduced and expanded walk zone, this should not only be a concern for LMSD parents and their children but also for the administration. Whether on its own or in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, LMSD must further consider how to enhance student-pedestrian safety in light of the LMSD “Smart Start” initiative.  Increasing the risk to student-pedestrian safety is not a smart way to start.

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