School, playground zone times to be decided

Okotoks: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. under consideration

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 10:53 am

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Okotoks town councillors have been waiting for the City of Calgary to make a decision on playground and school zones before decising what to do in Okotoks.

After the city made a long-awaited decision on the issue, it set the stage for Okotoks council to make its own decision in August.

Calgary’s playground and school zones are now from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., stretching school zones from an end time of 5 p.m. and eliminating the one-hour after sunset rule.

The idea is to eliminate driver confusion with the varying end time in playground zones, and maintain consistency between playground and school zones.

Now Okotoks, a commuter town where many residents head to the city on a daily basis, is weighing the importance of maintaining consistency with Calgary.

Calgary’s council voted almost unanimously to approve the changes with their mayor being the only opposed vote, but in Okotoks the topic has been heavily debated.

“The concerns seem to be that 9 p.m. is too early to close playgrounds in summer, preferring the one-hour after sunset current prevision,” said coun. Ed Sands. “But if we went to 9 p.m. that’s far too late in the winter.”

And coun. Carrie Fisher wasn’t convinced that the one-hour after sunset rule is confusing drivers and risking children’s safety.

“The hour past sunset seems to be constant and I’ve never heard anyone say that the hour past sunset confuses them,” she said. “Nine p.m. seems awfully early particularly in summer. Kids could be walking through at 10 p.m. That dusk area I think would be more dangerous for kids than that one hour after sunset. I’m not convinced as a parent and member of community that this provides proper protection for our youth.”

Coun. Tanya Thorn was also skeptical of the benefits the new times would bring and wanted to wait until Calgary implemented the hours to see how they worked, as well as the financial impact it will have on their enforcement.

“I think our zones work quite well. I drive by two of them quite regularly and the playground zones is where I see the kids (not school zones) and I see them no matter what time of year,” she said.

But Mayor Bill Robertson felt that an earlier start time was a good idea, but was also hesitant about the 9 p.m. end time.

“Having been involved in children safety for 30 years I’m supportive of the new hours because you’re having badminton at 7:30 a.m. and because where are the best playgrounds – in school zones?” he said. “If we are going to try to do something for this school year we need to have that bylaw drafted and ready to go for Sept 1. I think the other municipality is using good common sense, but I would prefer for it to be one-hour after sunset, but I don’t want to be the one municipality not going with everyone else. It’s less confusing to have continuity.”

Now that they now Calgary’s decision, council will vote on the bylaw at the August 18 meeting in hopes that if it is passed, the new 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. hours would be in effect by the start of the school year.


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