By Sue Botos
Collaboration has been a key word among Westshore communities as city officials try to work together in an attempt to make lean budgets go as far as possible. Rocky River administrators, including police Chief Kelly Stillman, are now asking parents for their assistance in supporting a pared-down school crossing guard program.
“In all the e-mails we’ve sent, we’ve stressed that there needs to be a collaborative effort between parents, the schools and the police department. Parents have to get involved, too,” said Stillman in a recent interview. He noted that most of the time when a child crosses a street, such as on a weekend or during the summer, a crossing guard will not be there to assist. He said that traffic safety must be reinforced at home.
Stillman said he anticipates “a lot of discussion” concerning a smaller crossing guard force of 12 this year, as opposed to more than 20 at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. Many of the guards quit as a result of a reduction in hours from 25 to 15 per week. The move came in response to the discovery by city officials that the guards were being paid for five hours daily, while only working for about three.
While the guards claimed they had no argument with getting paid only for hours worked, they balked at not receiving a raise in compensation. According to information gathered by the guards last October, they found that Rocky River crossing guards were the lowest-paid in the area, at $9.95 an hour, and are not compensated for holidays, snow days or seniority. The move cut the guards’ yearly earnings from $8,000 to $5,000.
Advertisements for guard positions were posted on the city website, but Stillman said there was only one response. He added that the new person would probably be used in a substitute position. There will be no raises in pay according to Stillman. “Unfortunately, the city does not have the money,” he stated.
To best utilize the remaining guards, Stillman said studies were conducted at three points during the past school year, which recorded the number of children crossing at each guard post. Stillman and police lieutenants then reviewed the information and developed a list of posts, strategically placing guards where they are most needed.
Among those intersections that will no longer be assigned a crossing guard are Wagar Road and Hilliard Boulevard, Wagar and Westway Drive, Beach Cliff Boulevard and Kensington Road, and Lakeview Avenue and Hilliard. Although the Wagar/Detroit Road crossing is near the high school, Stillman said it will remain staffed due to heavy traffic.
“We put the guards where we felt they were needed based on the kids’ ages and volume. We eliminated positions and pulled posts closer to the schools. It’s not a matter of money. It’s a more effective way to utilize the school guards,” Stillman stated. He also noted that the youngest students, kindergarten through grade 2, are all bused to Goldwood Primary School.
The results of the study and listing of proposed guard postings was passed on to the school district, which will communicate the information to parents. Families can then plan the safest route to school with their children well before the start of class.
The crossing guard program falls under the jurisdiction of the police department, but Stillman says he has been working with Superintendent Michael Shoaf on alternatives to ensure safe crossing for students walking to and from school. He said that at Kensington Intermediate School, student members of the Safety Patrol assist with crossings close to the school. He said that he and Shoaf have discussed a similar program for the middle school. “We’re researching all avenues and all alternatives for safety,” he stated.