The people whose focus is on student safety each day are pleased with how Tahoma High School students have adjusted to walking and biking to school.
Karin Weihe, Tahoma High School security officer, said students have responded well and there have been few problems.
The new high school’s location in the center of Maple Valley made walking, biking and even skateboarding to school possible, which is a big change from the former high school on the district’s west border, where there are no safe-walk routes. THS students who live within a 1.5-mile radius do not have school bus service and must get themselves to school.
Though there is no accurate count, hundreds of students now get to school on foot or bicycle. So many students are riding bikes to school that there is a shortage of storage racks. Additional racks, created by students in the school’s metals fabrication program, will be installed soon.
School and district officials have worked with the city of Maple Valley and state Department of Transportation traffic experts to evaluate where safety and traffic improvements can be mde. One of the changes already in place is posting an adult crossing guard on Tahoma Way, which is the east entrance to the high school, to assist students as they arrive and at dismissal. Other changes, including the addition of a left-turn arrow from Tahoma Way to SR 169, and improved street lighting are under consideration.
Students have had opportunities to learn more about pedestrian and bicycle safety at school, including two bike safety classes taught by School Resource Officer Carl Bonnell. Among the many safety tips offered as part of the class, Bonnell said he stresses the need for bike riders to always keep in mind that sharing the road with cars requires them to be alert and to clearly signal to drivers when they are turning or stopping.
Both Bonnell and Weihe said one of the more challenging lessons they are trying to impress upon student walkers and riders is to wear light-colored or reflective clothing, along with helmets and lights for cyclists. Another difficult lesson is to persuade students to avoid using smartphones and other devices that take their eyes and ears off the road or sidewalk.
Maple Valley Police have provided emphasis patrols to enforce speed limits and traffic safety laws.