|Training to guard school crossings|
|The Press - Features|
|Written by Kelley Lannigan|
|Wednesday, 17 August 2011 13:02|
There are 13 pedestrian cross walks manned near Baker County’s public schools and it takes a dedicated contingent of people to ensure each of them are safe to cross.
Enter the crossing guards, those folks in the neon yellow vests and bright orange gloves that are such a familiar sight on local streets when school is in session.
“These folks take this very seriously,” said Maj. Gerald Gonzalez, operations chief of the sheriff’s office. “They are determined not to let anything happen that might endanger the safety of the kids.”
Safety is the primary agenda of the guards, who each year train to introduce or re-acquaint them with the procedures for directing both vehicular and pedestrian traffic through school zones.Several new guards joined the ranks this year bringing the group to nine full time guards and one substitute.
Sgt. Thomas (Buck) Dyal, head of community services at BCSO, conducts the training each summer just before the start of the school year.
Guards begin their training with evaluation testing to identify areas of knowledge that need specific attention.
Returning guards get a two-hour refresher course, new ones get the full eight-hour introductory class of four hours in the classroom and four hours practical (outside) training.
During a new guard training, veteran guards pitch in and give valuable advice and information.
Training was originally handled by the school district, which still funds training, uniforms and salaries.
Some of the skills taught include left-right-left traffic scanning, making eye contact with approaching motorists, determining the best position to call traffic to a stop, their position in the intersection when directing students to cross, when not to direct students to cross, hand signals, the proper way to alert traffic and pedestrians, using a whistle and verbal signals.
They also examine common crash scenarios -— the situations in which pedestrians are most likely to be in danger of being struck by a vehicle.
After training the main things a crossing guard always keeps in the forefront of his or her mind are:
• Do not assume all cars will stop.
• Do not assume all cars will remain stopped.
• Remain alert.
New guards will work their first two weeks in tandem with experienced ones before going it solo.
“This job involves a lot of responsibility,” said Sgt. Dyal. “When school is in session, the guards have to be out there no matter what. In the rain, freezing wind, intense heat — any conditions.”
Because of staggered bus schedules, they usually work four shifts daily, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, sometimes at different locations.
Break time generally is spent in a semi-circle of folding chairs next to the Kangaroo gas station on 6th Street.
Guards cannot penalize students for crossing at unauthorized places but they do try to speak with students about it if they have the opportunity.
“What they tell them is basically they can’t do everything in their power to protect them if they aren’t using the crosswalks. They try to get the students to work with them and it’s usually successful,” said Maj. Gonzalez.
Guards also develop relationships with students, learning their first names and developing a sense about when they will arrive at their crosswalk.
“They consider all the students ‘their kids’ and their safety is the most important thing. In fact, for the crossing guards, it’s the only thing,” said Sgt. Dyal.
Seasoned crossing guards say the single biggest challenge is that drivers and pedestrians are often not paying attention.
“That puts the responsibility back on us,” said one, “You have to be alert to that at all times.”
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 07:59|