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Mother of Bedford student hit by car says safety should come first on school grounds

Union Leader Correspondent

September 14. 2014 10:55PM

BEDFORD — The mother of a student struck by a car last Tuesday at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School is speaking out about safety concerns on school grounds.

In a letter sent home to parents Wednesday, Lurgio principal Edward Joyce confirmed that the student had been hit and sustained injuries. Joyce said the student was struck while walking in the road from the upper middle/high school parking lots to the lower lot on Nashua Road.

Jackie Lemoine, mother of the injured student, said on Friday that her daughter broke her collarbone in the incident.

Lemoine confirmed the area where she and her daughter planned to meet up was not the designated pickup area for Lurgio students. They decided to meet in the lower lot instead due to the “congestion and mayhem” in the upper lot.

Lurgio was being used as a polling place that day for the primary election. However, Lemoine said, the decision to meet in the lower lot had nothing to do with added traffic from voters.

“The normal traffic up there is a complete disaster,” she said.

Lemoine said that students walking to the lower lots at the end of the school day are forced to walk between buses, which line the sides of the roadway. As her daughter walked between the buses, a bus driver signaled Lemoine’s daughter that she was safe to cross to the lower lot.

But then, “(the bus driver) apparently started beeping feverishly to get her attention, and when she looked up at him, that’s when the car sideswiped her,” Lemoine said.

Lemoine said she suspects that the driver did not expect her daughter to walk out from between the buses, adding that the driver was at the school to vote and not familiar with the layout and traffic.

Bedford police contacted Lemoine, who was en route to the school to pick up her daughter, from her daughter’s phone. Police, EMT workers and fire were already on the scene when she arrived.

“She was extremely shook up, as you can imagine,” Lemoine said.

Her daughter began complaining of pain in her collarbone area. EMTs believed she had muscular damage. Lemoine waived a hospital transfer at her daughter’s request, and it wasn’t until she brought her to urgent care three hours later, that the break to her collarbone was discovered.

Principal Edward Joyce wrote in the letter last week that Lemoine’s daughter would return to school on Thursday. However, Lemoine said, her daughter’s pain was bad enough that she opted to return on Friday instead.

“I’m really trying to remain positive about this — as positive as you can when your child’s sustained an injury like that,” Lemoine said. “If she had been one second earlier and taken one further step out, that car would have hit her head on.”

Lemoine also said she viewed the incident as “an accumulation of a bunch of different things that all went wrong at the same time.”

“That the school board decided to hold voting while school was open is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” she said, adding that she had voiced her concerns over this to Joyce.

Last week, Joyce said that the district was looking into whether school should be in session on election days to avoid similar accidents in the future. Superintendent Chip McGee also said last week that many parents have requested schools not be closed that day.

“In my opinion, a make-up day is a much better solution than putting the safety of the children, inside and outside of the school, in jeopardy,” she said.

Lemoine also said that the pickup arrangement poses safety risks on normal days, too.

“The high school gets out an hour before the middle school, so now by the time the middle school gets out, you have the athletic organizations from the high school that are either on the field or headed for the field,” she said. “If where (my daughter) was is not safe for a child to be walking, then why are there not more stringent protocols as far as where the athletes are leaving? There’s only one way on and one way off.”

Lemoine said a crosswalk should be put in from the walking path the lower lot to make the area safer and reduce confusion with cars and buses.

“By any means, the traffic is heavy, and that’s why we have to be so committed to the systems we have in place...but I think we could get better,” Joyce said on Sunday. “I think we need to do a comprehensive look at how we do this...taking into consideration the high school and where we need to get the kids after school for their activities.”

“We’ve really been trying to work with [Lemoine] to help her daughter get back to school and back to some degree of normalcy,” he added

Despite her concerns, Lemoine credited the administration at Lurgio for their response to the incident.

“They’ve been nothing but supportive,” she said. Lemoine also offered to volunteer should the school conduct a study on changing its pickup arrangements.

“I’m really hoping that this negative issue is a catalyst for positive change,” she said.

McGee said he was relieved that Lemoine’s daughter was recovering and back at school Friday.

“While I don’t think that it’s unsafe up at the middle school (and) high school, it’s certainly busy, and there’s always room for improvement,” he said.

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