Austin middle school teacher in ICU after crash near school

Car crash near Austin Discovery School on FM 969. Nov. 11, 2016 (Courtesy/ Sheri Guess)
Car crash near Austin Discovery School on FM 969. Nov. 11, 2016 (Courtesy/ Sheri Guess)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jon Watson, a middle school teacher from Austin Discovery School, is in the Intensive Care Unit after his car was hit while he was turning onto FM 969 from the charter school where he teaches.

“He’s in critical condition, he’s using a whiteboard to communicate and he had surgery on his pelvis. They were worried about blood in his brain for a while,” Kyle Holder, parent and school co-founder of Austin Discovery says. “It’s just pretty devastating that we just keep asking for help with the school zone or a red light or some sort of indication to get people to slow down on that stretch.”

Holder said, while they are shocked, they’re not surprised yet another accident has happened in that stretch of road. In March, MaryAnn Cicala, a parent from the Austin Discovery School was also in the ICU after her car was hit making the same exit Watson made.

“I’m so lucky to be alive, I was t-boned, turning onto 969 from the Austin discovery school campus,” Cicala says. “I broke 18 bones, shattered my clavicle, shattered my pelvis and broke 10 out of 12 ribs on my left side.”

Cicala explains they’ve made multiple requests to TXDOT to at least put school zone signs in.

“There are children, there are hundreds of children and families in 2 different schools and there needs to be a school zone there,” Cicala said.

Holder says they all feel like hitting their head against a brick wall.

“We’re just trying to figure out how big the body count has to be before they’re do something, because then we’ll know when to plan for it if enough people get hurt,” Holder said.

He and other parents say they fear when they do finally get a solution, it may be too late.

“You could imagine pulling out of that intersection and the next think you know, you’re in the hospital, where are your kids? Are they in the hospital, or dead?” Holder said.

TXDOT officials did release a statement to us saying:

It’s unfortunate any time there’s a traffic crash on our road system and we take that very seriously here at TxDOT. As you’re most likely aware, we have completed multiple studies on FM 969 regarding both traffic studies and school zone requests. First, we counted the two school entrances on FM 969 (both are named Oak Street) and found they do not have enough volume to warrant a traffic signal. The counts were conducted in early June while the school was still holding classes.

We also performed speed checks to see what drivers were traveling at on FM 969 and we found that they are driving higher than the posted speed. (East of the school, drivers are traveling at 60mph. In front of the school and west of the school, they are traveling at 55mph.) The posted speed limit east and west of the school is 50mph. Due to a series of criteria such as the curvature of the roadway and number of driveways, we are allowed to post the speed lower than the 85th percentile speed, which is why the posted speed limit is 50mph.

From 2012-2015, there have been 22 complaints made to the city of Austin about the area near the Austin Discovery School. The school had the most complaints in the entire city of Austin. As of November 14, 2016, two more requests for a school zone were filed this year.

KIPP Austin shares driveways with Discovery and is right next door. Their spokesperson also told us, traffic safety is a big concern for their campus.

KIPP Austin Public Schools has been aware and concerned by the increased construction and heavy vehicle traffic on FM 969. We hope last Friday’s accident that left an Austin Discovery School staff member critically injured is the last incident we see before the TxDOT reconsiders adding traffic safety features to protect students, their families and our staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured ADS staff member and his family

Watson’s family and friends have set up a fundraising page to help with medical expenses, if you’d like to donate, click here.

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