The roads that pass many Columbia County schools are not the friendliest to pedestrians. But some schools could get additional sidewalks if the Columbia County Commission hires a consultant to study the idea.
Columbia County has received requests from residents near Evans High, Evans Elementary and the Lakeside schools for sidewalks along the roads that lead to them.
"Basically, we want to respond to the requests by taking an objective look at it and see if we can find the funding to do worthwhile projects like that," county engineer Jim Leiper said.
On Tuesday, the Columbia County Commission will consider the recommendation to hire a consultant - a proposal approved by the Development and Environmental Services Committee. The county commission will meet at the courthouse in Appling at 6:30 p.m. If approved, bids will be taken, with spending capped at $10,000 for the consultant hired.
County Commissioner Frank Spears said the school system's schedule changes enhance the need for the sidewalks.
"With the situation some of the schools are facing - with the times right on top of each other - this is a concern we have not had in the past," he said.
The Georgia Department of Education does not provide funding for busing pupils who live within 1´ miles of the school they attend. But because of the lack of sidewalks, many areas around Columbia County schools are considered hazardous for pupils to walk to campuses, and Columbia County buses those pupils. If a pupil can walk safely to a crosswalk or crossing guard, they generally do not qualify to ride a bus.
"Certainly, sidewalks would be favorable additions as far as we're concerned," Columbia County school Superintendent Tommy Price said. "We're busing so many more kids than qualify because there are no safe pedestrian walkways for them."
There is a sidewalk on Blue Ridge Drive near the entrance of Lakeside Middle and High schools. But, that sidewalk is on only one side and goes no farther than Clarke Point.
"I'd like to be able to tie it around the Halifax subdivisions," Mr. Leiper said. "Maybe go down to like Clarke Point and then maybe back up to where the kids can walk through the subdivision and get on a sidewalk safely."
Around Evans High, Mr. Leiper said, he would like to see a sidewalk along Cox Road, extending from Bel Air Road to Hereford Farm Road. A sidewalk around Evans Elementary would run along a portion of Gibbs Road, around the school and back toward Gibbs Landing.
Mr. Leiper said a consultant would look at the amount of right of way the county has available for sidewalks, conflicts with utility lines and how much the improvements would cost. Those factors, he said, will dictate what the county is able to do.
Staff Writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.
Reach Peggy Ussery at (706) 868-1222.
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