By John Schaffner

After around 15 years of discussion, families of Ridgeview Charter Middle School students who live in nearby neighborhoods on both sides of Ga. 400 will get by mid-July a sidewalk along the access road that connects the school to Northland Drive.  
Frank J. Destadio, vice president of Parsons, the program management firm for Fulton County Schools projects, told a small but interested group at a Jan. 6 meeting at the school, that construction will not begin until work is completed on the Peachtree-Dunwoody Road bridge over Nancy Creek and the road is reopened to through traffic.
Destadio said plans are to begin the sidewalk project after school ends in late spring to cause the least amount of school traffic disruption. It would be completed before the 2010-11 school term begins. The access road will have to be completely closed to traffic for two weeks during some of the construction.
Destadio and Parsons project manager and director of construction John Smith said the new design that will be used to bridge the 16- to 20-foot-deep gullies along the 1,500 foot-long walkway path using a series of single steel posts driven into the terrain. The posts will support the cantilevered five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk surface.
Work will begin first on the flat areas of the walkway before the steel work begins to bridge the gullies. The work on the flat areas will begin around mid-May and should take about two weeks. That will be followed by the steel work and pouring of concrete on the raised sidewalk areas.
In order to provide protection from road traffic for students and adults using the sidewalk, there will be a 34-inch high guard rail between the sidewalk and the edge of the road.
The project team had planned to have a 4-foot-high vinyl-covered chain link fence on both sides of the sidewalk where it is elevated over the gullies. However, those attending the meeting—including representatives of the adjacent Baroque Circle neighborhood—urged the project team to continue the protective fencing on both sides for the full length of the sidewalk from Northlands to the school.
Destadio explained that the new design for the elevated walkway was selected—over one using support pylons on both sides of the walkway—in order to reduce the number of trees that would need to be removed.
The three neighborhood representatives attending the meeting also asked for lighting to be installed along the entire length of the path, for safety and as a crime-prevention measure. Destadio said the cost of doing that might be prohibitive.
Ridgeview Charter Schools Principal Karen Cox joined the representatives from the Baroque Circle neighborhood in asking that the gates be installed on both ends of the access road and that the road be closed when the school is not open.
Both Cox and Dist. 3 Fulton School Board Member Gail Dean agreed it is not desirable for the school system to have the road open when the school is not in session. Cox said the school is more vulnerable to vandalism with the road open.
The property formerly was gated and closed, but the gates no longer exist. Sandy Springs City Councilman Tibby DeJulio, who was told the city required the road be kept open when it deeded the road to the school board, said the city would check into why the road could not be gated.