Hewitt parents struggle with morning commute due to lack of sidewalks across from elementary school

Construction project expected to help
Spring Valley Road construction project adds some sidewalks
Spring Valley Road construction project adds some sidewalks(Ally Kadlubar)
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 8:03 AM CDT
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HEWITT, Texas (KWTX) - Families who live on the opposite side of the road from an elementary school in Hewitt are struggling with their morning commutes as their side of the road does not have a sidewalk or nearby crosswalk for children to walk to school.

One mom in that neighborhood, Katie Laubender, says her and her husband chose their home because it was in Spring Valley Elementary School’s zone.

“It’s such a great school,” Laubender said. “We love it.”

However, what she did not know when buying the house is how challenging the morning commute to school would be for her family every day.

“We have realized that our kids can’t walk to school,” she said. “Even with the speed limit for school zones, it’s 35, which is still very fast. Our kids couldn’t cross the street. There are ditches on our side of the road that make it so they can’t even walk down the side of Spring Valley to get to the crosswalk.”

Because her and her husband work, they have to hire child care every morning to drive their children right across the street.

“A lot of times, we need to leave by a certain time, but we can’t even drop our kids off until a certain time in the morning,” Laubender said.

Laubender also said this is not just a problem for her family.

“Also, our neighborhood is growing,” Laubender said. “There’s a lot of construction going on, and, even behind where I live, there’s a lot of young families moving in, families that have kids that are going to be obviously zoned for Spring Valley Elementary. Their children aren’t able to walk to school either.”

She said having some sidewalks on the other side of the road across from Spring Valley would be a great start to improving many parents and children’s mornings.

“How it would look different in the morning is I would be the one telling them, ‘Have a great day, love you,’ as they walk out the door versus a stranger driving them, and we could leave at the same time they could be walking to school,” she said. “It would be a smoother start to their morning.”

This left Laubender questioning who is responsible for adding the sidewalks. The answer is that it depends on who owns the property of where the sidewalk would need to be installed.

Installing the sidewalks for students in the area does not fall under Midway ISD’s jurisdiction nor does it fall on the city of Hewitt.

“Parents should understand is that the street out in front of the school is not controlled by the school district,” Midway ISD Director of Maintenance and Transportation, Buddy Freeman, said. “It’s either controlled by the state, which is the case at Spring Valley Road, or the county or the city.”

In this case, the Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for Spring Valley Road, a farm-to-market road. TX DOT is actually in the middle of a construction project on Spring Valley Road to widen the road and rehabilitate it, according to the Waco District Public Information Officer for TX DOT, Jake Smith. The project runs from Hewitt Drive to Sun Valley.

The project is also adding sidewalks from Castleman Creek to Vail Highlands, which will be right in front of Spring Valley Elementary School.

“The reasons and the goal of the project, whenever it’s complete, will increase local mobility, especially around those neighborhoods and improved safety along the corridor,” Smith said.

The project is expected to end in 2024. However, the project does not include plans for an additional crosswalk. Midway ISD said the school will provide a crossing guard at the crosswalk, but the owner of the property must install it.

While the neighborhood students and parents wait for those sidewalks to come, Midway ISD offers bus transportation to the area across the street from Spring Valley Elementary because the district deemed the road “hazardous.”

Usually, students must live a certain distance away to be applicable for bus transportation, but students in this across-the-street area are the exception because of the conditions of Spring Valley Road.

“The school board for Midway ISD has deemed that anyone that lives across the street, across Spring Valley Road from the school, that is a hazardous area because we don’t want kids crossing that street, and so they are eligible for bus transportation,” Freeman said.

Freeman also reminded parents and students that even if those sidewalks do come soon, it may not be the best option to allow children to cross such a heavy-trafficked road with a high school zone speed.

As an addition of a sidewalk may seem quite easy, Laubender and her neighbors will have to wait at least two years before seeing them pop up.