Butterfield Trail Middle School soon will have flashing school zone lights due in part to the diligence of BTMS Imagineers student council representatives.
The seventh graders appeared before the Van Buren City Council on Monday night with BTMS teacher Kellie Jackson to ask Mayor Bob Freeman and council members to consider the lights because of the heavy traffic on Poplar Street and multiple accidents over the past two years.
Most students felt they would get a positive response from the six-member council and mayor, but some were surprised by Freeman’s announcement following the student presentation.
Freeman told the students he will prepare a recommendation for four solar-powered lights comparable to those at other schools to be considered at the Jan. 23 council meeting.
“The city has worked with the Van Buren School District in the past through grant programs to install lights,” Freeman said. “The street department said Butterfield needs four lights expected to cost about $3,000 each.”
Freeman said the city and school realize the lights are a priority.
“As a seventh grader, I didn’t think I had a voice. Now I know that people will actually listen, if done in a proper way,” said Hallie Rackley, 13.
Rackley was one of the eight students to make the presentation to the council. Others were Brenda Cruz, Maddie Cochran, Brandon Scott, Caleb Adams, Andrew Hammond, Carter Myers and Katelyn King.
Jackson said the students discussed the lights in their social studies class and, upon the recommendation of school resource officer George Edelen, decided to make the presentation to the council.
“I thought that getting the lights would take longer,” Adams, 13, said. “I thought that since we were kids, they might take it easier on us, but they asked us several questions.”
The presentation noted that Butterfield as well as City Heights, Parkview and Tate Elementary schools do not have school zone lights.
Hallie pointed out that during the past two years, two members of the cafeteria staff have been struck by cars during school hours.
Brandon Scott, 12, said BTMS has 30 to 40 students who walk to and from school each day and that football players cross the street to the practice field before, during and after school.
“I thought we would get the lights because we were very prepared,” Brandon said. “I’m thankful the city council took the time to listen to a group of students.”
It also was pointed out teachers use a parking lot that requires crossing Poplar Street.
“I thought it would work because we covered the bases of what we needed and that we wanted safety for our school and that a kid’s point of view would persuade the city council,” said Katelyn King, 13.
Andrew Hammond, 13, pointed out that one of the accidents during recent years involved a person who was driving while intoxicated.
“I thought we would get the school zone lights because they saw the number of accidents and places people like to speed,” Andrew said. “I was surprised that we got more lights than we asked for and that we got an immediate response.”
Maddie Cochran, 12, said she was pleased to be part of taking a leadership role.
“I think having kids do the presentation made it more effective,” Maddie said.
Brenda Cruz, 13, said, “Yeah, I thought we would get the lights because we had strong evidence and supporting details.”
Carter Myers, 12, pointed out the project was an important topic.
“We are passionate about it and we were well prepared,” Myers said.