By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
One of the AAPS safety initiatives designed to keep kids secure at school has been around for decades.
Crossing guards are stationed at busy intersections at select elementary and middle schools to help students safely cross busy streets as they walk or ride their bikes to school.
AAPD Crossing Guard Coordinator Officer Jamie Adkins says the program is valuable because it helps with getting kids to school safely in certain areas where it’s hard for them to cross due to traffic congestion.
“Where we have crossing guards are high-volume areas that are major thoroughfares to work that are part of the Safe Routes to School program, and a high number of students that cross there,” she said.
The city of Ann Arbor is in charge of managing the crossing guards, but their salaries are split between the city and AAPS. Guards are paid $12 an hour for four hours a day, which includes travel time as they are on site 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon.
The annual cost of the program is $250,000 a year. It’s not fiscally possible to have a crossing guard at every school, Adkins said, nor is it necessary.
“We have to take a look at individual needs; it’s really a case-by-case basis,” said Adkins. “Currently we have 23 crossing guards, and that’s the most we’ve ever had, and includes our fill-in crossing guards. Because of the cost of a crossing guard, we have to be financially responsible in determining whether a certain area needs a crossing guard.”
Too, it’s very difficult to recruit crossing guards, she said.
“Our best pool of candidates is retirees, however, there’s not a lot of people who want to work a $12-an-hour job,” she said. “We actually have a very difficult time recruiting crossing guards. It’s a valuable resource that we have to justify.
Adkins said there really needs to be a justification for putting another human body — a crossing guard — at a location. Those variables could include: if there’s a lot of conflict between cars and pedestrians, if it’s a busy roadway, if there are no other traffic engineering alternatives available if it’s not just appropriate to have these kids crossing.
“We’re trying to take a look at the schools holistically because a lot of times there are other things we can do to make getting to and from school safely,” she said.
And that’s where the AAPS Transportation Safety Committee comes into play, she said, because the committee is composed of school personnel, Durham School Services, city traffic engineering, which is a huge piece, and AAPD.
At Burns Park, which is bordered by low-volume residential streets, there is no crossing guard at the school—although there is one nearby at Granger and Packard. But to make the area even safer for children, the school recently started a program in which children simply carry an orange flag above their heads while crossing at Wells and Lincoln in order to be more visible to approaching drivers.
Liz Margolis, executive director of Student and School Safety for AAPS, says crossing guards are a vital part of the Safe Routes to School program.
“They provide an adult at key traffic crossings for our elementary and middle school students plus they become part of the community many having served in their positions for years,” she says. “We highly value their commitment to our students and their safety.”
Therman Hunter has been a crossing guard at Logan and Clague since 2012. Hunter is such an essential presence in the neighborhood, he was nominated for Safe Kids Worldwide’s “America’s Favorite Crossing Guard.”
“It’s extremely important,” he says of the job. “Number one, obviously not all cars obey school zone ordinances. You have small children who are frolicking and not paying attention. And you just need to have a presence so cars will police themselves.”
King Elementary crossing guard Geralyn Borg agrees that the role is very important.
“I just love to make sure the kids are safe, make sure they get to school safe and control the traffic to make sure the kids get across the street without danger to them,” she said. “I’m glad I’m here for the kids.”
Adkins says parents should allow extra time to make sure their kids get to school and make sure to not drop kids off in middle of traffic or mid-block and to use the crossing guards that are in place.
Crossing guards are located at Pauline/Redeemer; Oxford/Hill; Barton Drive/Northside; Packard/Granger; Glacier Way/Tremont; Miller/Seventh; Fifth/Madison; Liberty/Crest; West Liberty/Murray; Champagne/Santa Rosa; Traver/Nixon/ Packard/Jewett; King Elementary; Seventh/Delaware/Geddes/Oswego; Pontiac Trail/Taylor; Taylor/Peach; and Miller/Newport.