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Franklin School District opposes N. Cape path proposal

A padlocked gate on Country Dale property prevents access to Forest Home Avenue and the adjacent bike path.

A padlocked gate on Country Dale property prevents access to Forest Home Avenue and the adjacent bike path.

April 15, 2014

Franklin — Although some South North Cape Road residents are happy that reconstruction will not include a sidewalk, Franklin School Board members are concerned that a proposed pathway may endanger children.

The Franklin Common Council approved a rural design at a meeting Tuesday, March 18, after multiple attempts to appease residents who opposed massive tree removal associated with sidewalk installation along the road.

South North Cape Road, a two-mile road owned by Milwaukee County, has been in need of repair for more than a decade.

In lieu of a sidewalk, the city instead proposed to convert a nearby bike path along the west side of West Forest Home Avenue into a paved walkway for pedestrians. The bike path would lead to the rear of Country Dale Elementary School.

In a letter to the board on March 31, Mayor Tom Taylor said the city was "interested in pursuing additional alternatives that can further enhance pedestrian safety ... (by) providing an alternative access for children who currently use S. North Cape Road as a pedestrian route."

The city's proposed walkway would be an asphalt path, 8- to 10-feet wide, that extended from West St. Martins Road on the south to West Rawson Avenue on the north. The city estimated the cost of the school's portion of the path would be between $15,000 and $25,000, an expense the district was asked to consider.

"This action by the City only becomes beneficial if the School District provides a paved path from the playground at the back of the school through the gate and fence and to the bike path," Taylor wrote.

School board members vehemently objected to opening the back gate, located about 600 feet from the school building, at a meeting April 9.

"When did it become acceptable for the City of Franklin to condone children to walk alone on paths? ... It's not safe for us to have children walk or bike alone on that path," said School Board President Janet Evans, who later cited the city's 16 registered sex offenders in the area.

Superintendent Steve Patz also noted the busy streets that would intersect the pathway.

"There's potential for these kids to have to cross Forest Home Avenue, St. Martins Road, North Cape Road, Sunnybrook Road and a wooded area," Patz said.

Mark Cloutier, manager of building and grounds for the district, also disapproved of the city's proposal, emphasizing that Country Dale is "a fairly rural school" in a "pretty secluded area."

"We (would) have an insecure hole in our fence," if the back gate was opened, Cloutier said. "There would be a chance of children wandering out (of the back gate) and of sex offenders wandering in ... I think you stay away from this."

Country Dale Principal Karen Noel said she's never had a parent request to provide access to the school through the back gate.

"I think our parents really appreciate the fact that the gate is locked," Noel said. "We feel very strongly about student safety and have grave concerns about where kids are at all times. I think this option would literally open the gate to affecting the safety of our students."

The board made no action regarding the letter, but, under the school's safety policy, gave Patz the authority to discuss the matter with the city.

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