Dorchester Dist. 2 set to upgrade crosswalk at Beech Hill Schools

DD2 Director of Security Preston Giet said Thursday the district has been trying to move forward with the project for several years.
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 4:00 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 6:48 PM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Dorchester School District Two officials say they will be installing a new crosswalk across busy Highway 61 to help better protect students during dismissal from Beech Hill-area schools.

DD2 Director of Security Preston Giet said Thursday the district has been trying to move forward with the project for several years.

“A lot of times, when you’re talking about one school, there’s not that many kids, but we have two schools here that are neighborhood schools,” Giet said. “You get a lot of people from the community walking, so it’s really important that we try to manage that as well as possible.”

He said these conversations were taking place well before East Edisto Middle School opened this school year, and now over 1,100 students go to class in this part of Dorchester County.

Giet said the district is spending somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 to consolidate the two crosswalks they have for one unified crossing.

The district is planning to add flashing lights, a raised median and better lighting to the crossing, which will shift to the Beech Hill Elementary main entrance. Giet said these changes should make crossing easier and safer for children.

“You know, this road was built a long time ago,” Giet said. “Since all of these markings were put in and the school was built, a lot has changed on Highway 61 during that time. It’s time for a change. [DOT] realized it. They recognized it. [DOT] actually gave us the drawings that we’re going by to use to create this new plan.”

While some locals believe the project is a good idea, parent Vanessa Kerns said the district should have upgraded the lighting and not relocated the crossings.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to put one central crosswalk to the center of Beech Hill,” Kerns said. “I like the existing one where you enter to go into East Edisto. It’s away from that main traffic with the school buses, all of the car riders.”

Kerns said while dropping off her children at school during the winter, it can feel dangerous due to the lack of visibility in the area.

“Walking down the sidewalk, you can’t really be seen, and if you want to take your children earlier, there are no deputy sheriffs on the crosswalk, so you really can’t be seen,” she said.

District officials said they have the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s approval and plan for the new crossing to be ready by the start of next school year.

Officials will also be making changes to the car rider line at Beech Hill Elementary for next school year to reduce the number of cars waiting on Highway 61 to pick up students.

“We’ve got certain grade levels that are released on one side of the campus and certain grade levels that are released on the other side,” Giet said. “We found a way to get more of them to one side of the campus, so that folks aren’t having to wait to turn in.”

South Carolina Department of Transportation officials say they are in the process of upgrading and adjusting the crosswalk at Legend Oaks Way as part of their plans to improve safety on Highway 61.