As the last of Johnson County’s Greenwood schools began the academic year Wednesday, students and drivers were met with flashing lights, meant to increase student safety and promote driver awareness.

The city of Greenwood paid a $179,000 portion of the $588,718 price tag to place flashing beacons in school zones outside 15 local schools, including every building at Greenwood Community Schools, along with Clark-Pleasant schools and private schools located within the city’s borders. The federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funded the rest of the project, said Mark St. John, Greenwood’s city engineer.

The project, which was completed in time for the 2022-23 school year, includes flashing beacons, warning drivers of the need to slow down to 25 miles per hour during the school day, at 13 schools. Our Lady of Greenwood Catholic School didn’t get a flashing beacon since the school is already in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, while Northeast Elementary School didn’t get one because it’s at the end of a dead-end road. Both schools, however, got improved signage, he said.

Along with the flashing beacons, the project also brought signalized pedestrian crossings to four schools: Pleasant Crossing Elementary School, Greenwood Middle School, Grassy Creek Elementary School and Clark-Pleasant Middle School, St. John said.

Those pedestrian crossings, similar to ones seen in downtown Franklin, warn drivers to stop when a pedestrian pushes a button, triggering flashing lights at the ends of the crossing.

The improvements will help keep drivers alert during the school day, said Terry Terhune, superintendent of Greenwood schools.

“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “Having additional flashing and signage up makes people aware that it’s school time and kids are present. There may be kids walking or riding their bikes and kids coming and going to school and it’s helping to make people aware when they’re driving by our schools. That’s why we’re so appreciative. It’s another way to keep our kids safe.”

City officials saw the beacons and flashing crosswalks were effective in other suburban communities, such as Avon and Brownsburg, and decided to pursue a grant to fund the project, St. John said.

“I was out at Grassy Creek (Elementary) and Clark-Pleasant (Middle School) and I could see people slowing down,” he said.

The signalized crossing at Greenwood Middle School helps kids who live in neighborhoods on the other side of Averitt Road safely cross the street. While, beacons in front of Isom Elementary School help drivers slow down on Meridian Street, where they are often in a hurry, Terhune said.

“The one in front of Isom is really helpful. We have lots of traffic and people drive faster through there than they should,” he said. “We’re very happy that they’re there to make people aware and to make people slow down.”