12/05/11 Working out the details on how to keep children walking to Jefferson Elementary as safe as possible involved a number of people. Budget constraints have prohibited the hiring of any new crossing guards to help kids cross over Fairbanks Street before and after school hours. Principal Angie Mills said, “It has been a challenge, but I think we have reached a good compromise with the Plymouth Police Department.”
When Mills took over as the head of the school this year, one of her first concerns was to determine the best way to accommodate the school buses, parents or others who are transporting their children in cars, and those that walk.
At this time, the buses drop off and load in the south staff parking lot behind the school. Those students riding in cars unload and load from the circle drive in the front of the school. Mills said, “We have had a huge influx of parents picking up children this year.” According to Mills, out of the enrollment of 325 students, 130 families have children who walk or are picked up.
Students riding in cars are supervised by teachers and aides. Mills said students are loaded into the cars after school by staff members. “We can load all of the children in ten minutes, from 3:00 -3:10 p.m..” Mills said. Those picking up children must have a gold star with a number on it visible. Mills said that if there is a question as to who may pick up a child, they use radios to contact the office for verification.
Some 24 walkers are held inside of classrooms until 3:05.
Mills said she received many positive comments from parents after the decision was made to use the circle drive for car riders. She said, “The back lot is not meant for traffic. It does not have a road.”
Mills said, “We don’t want care to diminish in any way. We must have a high level of safety.”
Since school started, the custodians (Kirk Clark and Luann Arnett) at Jefferson have helped with helping kids cross at the Fairbanks/Klinger intersection. Anticipating the time when the custodians would be working on snow removal, Mills sought help from the Police Department. According to state law, the school corporation is not allowed to hire guards and crossing guards are hired by the City. Plymouth Schools Assistant Superintendent Rodger Smith said, “Every form of municipal government is under a budget crunch. We understand the cost of hires and equipment.” Smith said, “We all have the same common goal-to keep kids safe.”
After working with Mayor Mark Senter, Assistant Police Chief David Bacon and Park Superintendent Mike Hite, crossing guard Nancy Saber was assigned to the Fairbanks/Klinger crossing in the afternoon. Once the children have crossed, Sarber then drives to Michigan Street to help them cross to the west side of the street.
Mills said she still has concerns with safety in the mornings for walkers since they come at staggered times.
Mayor Mark Senter said, “There is nothing in the 2012 budget that will allow the hire of an additional crossing guard.” He said that he, Hite, Bacon and Mills met two weeks ago to discuss possibilities.
Senter said he has appreciated the way that the school administrators are working with the City to solve problems. He said, “The first Friday of each month, school administrators from Plymouth High School, Lincoln Junior High and other principals meet with me, Police Chief Jim Cox. Assistant Chief Dave Bacon and Fire Chief Andy Metsker. Also attending the meetings are Plymouth Police Officer Mark Owen (who serves as a school resource officer) and Detective Ted Brown.
Senter said, “We work very well with the school corporation. It is good to have that rapport.”
Carol Anders Correspondent