Unplowed sidewalks caused inconvenience for students, pedestrians

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Sidewalks outside of Emmet Elementary School, 5500 W. Madison St., went unplowed for several days after Sunday’s blizzard.

It wasn’t until either late Thursday evening or early Friday morning the sidewalks surrounding the closed CPS building were cleared, according to some residents. (CPS officials did not respond to AustinTalks’ calls and emails.)

And that’s just not good enough for parents sending their kids to other schools in the area.

“I don’t want them to walk in the streets, so they would have to walk through it,” said Tamika Stevenson, the mother of two children who attend Oscar DePriest Elementary School just a few blocks from Emmet.

Chicago Public School designated the path pass Emmet as a safe passage route, but when sidewalks are packed with snow, some parents don’t find these routes to be very safe at all.

“I was aware (of the unplowed sidewalks), so I would tell them, ‘Just be careful,’” Stevenson said. “’I know you have to walk through the snow, but if you have to walk through it, try to walk on pavement that doesn’t have as much snow.’”

Stevenson, who has lived in Austin for five years, said it’s always been an issue getting side streets cleared after heavy snowfall. It’s inconvenient and unsafe, she said, especially since Emmet is located at one of the busiest intersections in Austin – at Madison and Central.

“If you don’t shovel, then the kids have to walk in the street on Madison,” said Dwayne Truss, a longtime Austin resident and community advocate.

Homeowners and business owners must clear their sidewalks, so why not CPS, Truss said.

And forcing kids to walk on busy streets to avoid going through deep snow is unsafe, which is why someone must be held accountable, he said.

“It’s a shame that the city of Chicago is threatening to issue tickets to homeowners for not shoveling snow from their sidewalks,” Truss said. “Yet after closing Emmet and forcing students to walk further to school, CPS does not have the decency to shovel the sidewalks around Emmet so that children do not have to walk in the streets on their way to school.”

Individuals can be fined $50, and businesses up to $1,000 a day for not complying with the city’s snow removal ordinance, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The transportation department did not return calls from AustinTalks about whether CPS could be fined if its property is not properly cleared for pedestrian traffic.

By Friday morning, all four closed CPS schools in Austin – Robert Emmet ElementaryGeorge Leland ElementaryFrancis Scott Key Elementary and Louis Armstrong Math & Science Elementary – had been plowed.

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