School, city leaders: Street closure could improve safety for Grand Island Senior High
A decision looms, for a project that's been debated for decades.
Grand Island city and school leaders want to close a street they say puts roughly 2,500 kids at risk, as it cuts through the busiest high school campus in central Nebraska.
They've tried dips and speed bumps on College Street – anything to slow down cars that zoom by Grand Island Senior High.
Chief Financial Officer Virgil Harden said safety is the motivator, with many kids crossing the street he considers a school hallway, all day long.
“100 students every period going back and forth, 178 days a year and there's a public street going right through our hallway,” he said.
School administrators say the street dates back to the days of handlebar mustaches and bowties.
“It was platted in 1888,” Harden said, pointing to photos of long-ago school board members.
129 years later, they say times have changed, and they envision a green space with walkways and a grand entrance.
“I think the time has ended it for it to be a street,” Harden said. “It's time for it to be an entrance onto a campus that we can control and do that thing, a lift for Grand Island to make it clearly – this is the turn that you make and you're entering Grand Island Senior High.”
City engineers agree with the school district that College Street cuts the campus in half — the school on one side, athletic complex and alternative school on the south side.
Public Works Director John Collins said, “The safest thing would be to make the street what it's behaving as, which is an internal campus drive.”
Collins recommends closing the street. He says there are major roads to the north and south better suited for traffic, especially State Street to the south of the football field.
And when school's out, Collins says traffic is light.
“Yes, you would probably be lonely in June,” he said.
Neighbors have protested in the past, saying it's a land grab for the school to expand on.
The district does have plans, with millions donated to revamp Memorial Stadium.
But Harden says this is about safety, and tying the campus together.
“Really beautify that area, if you've seen the preliminary plans, it's just fabulous,” he said.
The issue is on Tuesday’s City Council agenda. If approved, Harden said Grand Island Public Schools could get working on the project this fall.