Brandywine parents voice safety concerns for kids walking to school

NILES, MI. -- "When I was young, I used to have to walk a mile, uphill, barefoot." You've probably heard that tale, told you by your parents or grandparents before. 

That message, rings at least somewhat true, for kids at Brandywine Middle and High Schools. 

Kids living within a mile of their schools, are being asked to walk to school, and parents say it just isn't safe.

"The cars just go vroom, vroom. Too fast. They don't go over," says 12-year-old Jessica Kelems. "They are kind of right there, and still flying by."

"I call it the 70 miles per hour street, because no one ever goes 35," adds her mom, Ralene Lausch. 

They live off of South 17th Street, less than a mile from school.

It's a walk that Kelems is scared of. 

"They're going right by, and I'm afraid they might hit me. Or won't pull over and they might just wipe me out," she explains. 

There are no sidewalks, no lights, and no room to walk safely. 

"[There are] weeds as high as their knees, and they also have nowhere to walk. The cars speed up and down the road," says Lausch. "This road is very dark."

With winter just around the corner, Lausch says something needs to be done. 

"They're either walking in a bank of snow or they're walking where the plows have plowed," she adds. 

But her biggest fear? 

"If you're on ice, let's say you stop before you hit a child. You can't," explains Lausch. 

She says she, and other parents, have tried to talk to the school district. 

They say nothing has changed. 

"If you took away the busses six to seven years ago, and you still haven't put down a sidewalk, how big of an issue is the safety of the students?" asks Lausch.

ABC57 News received the following statement from Karen Weimer, the superintendent for Brandywine Community Schools.

"Last year members of our administrative team and several parents met with Niles Township officials and civil engineers from Prein and Newhof to discuss the Safe Routes to School grant. The purpose of the grant is twofold:  1.  to improve routes for safe walking and bike riding to school and 2.  to encourage more physical activity.  We are at the stage of conducting a walking audit to survey our walking areas and identify even safer routes to school.  That information will help determine next steps for the grant application."

Weimer added that safety of the students, is a priority. 

But in the meantime, middle and high schoolers are not confident in their commute to class.

"Some are a little scared," explains Kelems. 

And parents, just pray each day, that their kids come home okay. 

"Thank god something hasn't happened to one of the children already," says Lausch. "That's all I got to say."

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