School safety improvements pledged for Whitehorse after 'close calls'

·3 min read
A heavy truck rolls past Holy Family Catholic Elementary School in Whitehorse which is slated to see improvements related to road safety.  (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
A heavy truck rolls past Holy Family Catholic Elementary School in Whitehorse which is slated to see improvements related to road safety. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse will see new sidewalks, curb extensions, lights, a new "mini-roundabout" and bright new paint near elementary schools.

It's the result of $820,000 in federal funding through the Gas Tax Fund which is available to municipalities.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said he hopes the improvements could save a child's life.

"We have had so many close calls," he said specifically of the area near Jack Hulland Elementary.

Yukon Minister of Community Services, Richard Mostyn, said improvements are needed as Whitehorse keeps growing.

"There is more traffic on our streets, it's busier and there's more congestion. It's been happening gradually over the years, like the proverbial frog in the boiling water," he said.

Mostyn added that children and parents "can see, in some cases, how inadequate our school safety zones have become."

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis brought up a traumatic memory from childhood during the news conference.
Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis brought up a traumatic memory from childhood during the news conference. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Mayor shares traumatic childhood memory

A routine news conference with three levels of government on Wednesday became unexpectedly emotional and difficult for Curtis, as he recalled a traumatic childhood memory.

Midway through his speech, the mayor revealed that the area outside Jack Hulland Elementary where the news conference was held, was very personal to him.

He said it was there, on a hot end-of-school-year day in 1978, that he witnessed a child killed by a bus.

The tragedy happened while Curtis was a Grade 7 student.

"It was traumatic, most certainly " he recalled.

Organizers of the news conference say this wasn't expected. The comments were not in the mayor's prepared notes.

Curtis later said he shared the story to illustrate how infrastructure announcements can be a matter of life and death.

City consultants have determined that the road outside Jack Hulland Elementary should be the first priority.

Curtis agreed it's long been a needed project.

"Everybody is really behind this project and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for that. To ensure that we look forward, to make sure we address the concerns before they become tragedies," he said.

This faded paint outside Jack Hulland Elementary in Whitehorse doesn't make for much of a warning.
This faded paint outside Jack Hulland Elementary in Whitehorse doesn't make for much of a warning.(Philippe Morin/CBC)

Four schools will see improvement

Work is being pledged over two years with improvements around Jack Hulland Elementary, Elijah Smith Elementary, Takhini Elementary and Holy Family Catholic Elementary School.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said, in announcing the funding, "we have no higher priority than the safety of our young children."

Curtis said improvements would not be possible without federal funding, unless the city were to increase its rate of taxation.

This roundabout outside Elijah Smith Elementary in Whitehorse will soon see brighter paint called zebra markings.
This roundabout outside Elijah Smith Elementary in Whitehorse will soon see brighter paint called zebra markings.(Philippe Morin/CBC)

Many concerns raised over the years says MLA

Geraldine Van Bibber, MLA for Porter Creek North which includes Jack Hulland Elementary said constituents have been raising concerns for years.

"Attending school council meetings for the last four and-a-half years, I don't think there was a meeting where this wasn't brought up; the safety of the children," she said. "This is very good news."

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