Staff at Hille Middle School can breathe easier when students leave school for the day, after the activation of a stoplight near the site of a student's injury last spring.
District 142 officials, along with Oak Forest and Cook County representatives happily flipped the switch that they hope will keep students safe.
The sidewalk and a new stoplight are safety measures planned after student Alex Fitzgerald was struck by a car in April 2012. Alex, who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained in the accident, inspired city and school officials to seek help from Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy, to make the area safer for students.
"It is an incredible day for us," said Superintendent Dr. Margaret Longo. "The fact that the county acted so quickly to ensure the safety of the children....
"We're thrilled. So grateful."
District and city officials approached Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy with their concerns for students' safety early in the summer. Student Alex Fitzgerald was the second to be struck by a car at the spot in front of the school, and district officials were concerned for the safety of other students. By late-August, aldermen had approved plans to install sidewalk and stoplight.
"This was much, much needed," said Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy. "We knew something had to be done. I was very happy to be able to get help for them."
A temporary stoplight is currently in place. The signal for traffic along 151st. Street will remain green, unless triggered by a pedestrian pressing the "walk" button, or by traffic exiting the school parking lot. Permanent stoplights will be erected in the spring. The County covered the $250,000 cost of the stoplight; the city and school district together paid roughly $67,000 for sidewalk installation, divided amongst the two entities.
Cook County Chief Administrative Officer Robin Kelly noted the teamwork behind the effort, and the expediency of the project.
"It's a good example of all parties coming together," Kelly said.
Oak Forest City Administrator Troy Ishler agreed.
"I've had permits take longer," Ishler joked.
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