An 11-year-old girl suffered serious injuries Tuesday afternoon when she was struck by a van while crossing a street near her Petaluma school.

The sixth-grader at McKinley Elementary was holding hands with a classmate when they ran into Ellis Street outside of a crosswalk and the first girl was struck and run over by a white Ford van, police said.

She was taken by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where police said she was listed in critical condition.

Police do not believe her injuries are life-threatening.

The classmate -- also an 11-year-old sixth-grade girl -- was not struck but fell backward dodging the van and suffered a minor head injury or concussion. She was taken to Petaluma Valley Hospital for evaluation.

The accident in front of McKinley School was reported at 2:52 p.m., seven minutes after students at the school had been let out for the day.

A school crossing guard was on duty at the crosswalk on Ellis Street, near Martin Circle, but the girls entered the street a block south, near a school driveway where there is no designated crosswalk, said Lt. Tim Lyons of the Petaluma Police Department.

The van swerved but was unable to avoid one of the girls, Lyons said. The driver, a 34-year-old Rohnert Park man, stopped and cooperated with police. Lyons said there was no sign he was exceeding the 25 mph speed limit.

"There is no indication of fault by the driver," Lyons said.

The accident was witnessed by a number of students and parents, and police said they received a number of calls.

McKinley Principal Matthew Harris was assisting the victim moments after she was struck, and school officials quickly called the girl's mother, said Jane Escobedo, assistant superintendent for the Petaluma City School District.

The girl's teacher accompanied her in the ambulance to the hospital and Harris drove her mother, who arrived at the school after the ambulance left.

Lyons said the girl is Spanish-speaking and that police interpreters were on scene interviewing witnesses.

The classmate who was crossing with the victim was initially reported to be uninjured. Police had trouble locating her because she apparently ran into a classroom after the incident and was tight-lipped with staff about what had happened.

Within about 45 minutes, school officials became aware of her involvement and her injury and contacted police, Lyons said.

McKinley has 233 students in grades four through six. Those who are picked up or walk home mostly leave from the front entrance on Ellis Street, Escobedo said.

The campus exit is located near the Ellis Street crosswalk. The crossing guard is the staff member charged with directing students to use the crosswalk, Escobedo said.

She did not say whether teachers or other staff members were in the area at the time, although police did say that other school employees were present.

Escobedo said the school would be evaluating its procedures as a matter of routine after a serious incident.

Parents were to be notified of the accident through an automated phone call or some other communication, Escobedo said.

Counselors were also to be available today for students if needed.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or