Highlands fourth-grader lays out problems with routes to school for Mission City Council

Highlands fourth-grader Lola Gravatt.
Highlands fourth-grader Lola Gravatt.

Highlands fourth-grader Lola Gravatt commanded the attention of the Mission City Council Wednesday night with a presentation that laid out the barriers confronted by Mission students who want to walk or ride bicycles to the school.

Lola sat at the table with the council during its Community Development Committee meeting and in a clear and confident voice showed the council that Mission students riding bikes to school are forced to go down Roe or 63rd Street. All of the Mission students attending Highlands come from west of the school, in the neighborhoods behind the building, she pointed out,

“To get to school, we have two once-awesome paved paths that have been allowed to fall apart and be taken over by homeowners backyard fences,” she said. “Now the school has installed a flight of steep concrete stairs at the end of one path, and a locked gate at the end of the other.” She asked who owns the pathways.

Lola said her research project was inspired by a story on shawneemissionpost.com that said Mission was launching a Safe Routes to School study with a federal grant to determine opportunities to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety for students getting to school. Her conclusion was that the long-neglected paths are the best route for Mission students.

“I made this presentation because I feel that Mission walkers and bicyclists should have safe pathways to get to their school,” she said. “I mean, the school is in Mission. Both Prairie Village and Fairway have two crosswalks and a crossing guard for their safety.”

Mission planner Danielle Murray said the easements for the paths are designated as 10-foot walk easements that were dedicated to the county before Mission became a city.

Lola’s presentation came complete with photographs pointing out the condition of the paths, how they have been narrowed by homeowner fencing, and the barriers once they hit school property.

The pathways, which have been problematic for students even before the new school was built, offer the most direct access to the school for most students coming from the Mission neighborhoods. Along 63rd Street, the sidewalk is on the Prairie Village side of the street.

City staff said they will need to talk with the city’s land use attorney about the status of the easements and with the school about the gate, which is on school property.

“I guarantee you that the city is going to be looking into all of the stuff,” committee chair Pat Quinn told Lola.

Lola Gravatt presenting to the city council Wednesday.
Lola Gravatt presenting to the city council Wednesday.

Here’s Lola’s report: