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Letter to the Editor: We Need Crossing Guards at Ayers Elementary

An Ayers parent and PTA executive shares her frustration at local volunteers being denied the chance to act as crossing guards — leaving the children unsupervised — and calls for an immediate solution.

The following letter by Kristi Buchholz, a parent and PTA executive at Ayers Elementary School, has been sent to the Concord City Council, City of Concord administration, MDUSD board members and MDUSD administration.

I have been a city resident for almost 20 years. I have two children in the MDUSD, one in second grade, and one in seventh grade. I have been a very active parent at Ayers Elementary School since 2006. I have sat on School Site Council, am a member of the Ayers Safety Committee, held multiple positions on the Ayers PTA, Pine Hollow PTA as well as the Mt. Diablo Council of PTA's. I am fortunate enough to be able to volunteer many hours a week through these worthwhile organizations.

I am writing to you all out of sheer frustration and desperation at this point. The crosswalk directly in front of Ayers Elementary has been a very dangerous problem for years. This particular crosswalk was never staffed at city or MDUSD expense. Up until last year, a MDUSD noon supervisor staffed the crosswalk, and Ayers PTA reimbursed MDUSD for the expense at roughly $2500 per year.

As you are all aware, PTA's and other parent groups are scrambling to raise precious funds to supplement the thousands of dollars cut by the State of California. Ayers PTA was happy to fund this, considering it a small price to pay for the safety and well being of our hundreds of students. We were informed at the beginning of this school year, that employees were no longer permitted to act as crossing guards, regardless of who was paying for it.

I then approached the City of Concord Police Department, on behalf of the Ayers Safety committee, to inquire about codes and rules regarding acting as a crossing guard. We were aware of Concord Municipal Code 106-39, which reads:

Sec. 106-39. Persons other than authorized officials not to direct traffic.
No person, other than an officer of the Police Department, members of the Fire District, a person authorized by the Chief of Police, or a person authorized by law shall direct or attempt to direct traffic by voice, hand, or other signal, except in an emergency and except that persons may operate any mechanical pushbutton signal erected by order of the Director of Public Works.

We then were contacted by Officer Bill Roche who informed us that the Police Department was putting together a volunteer crossing guard curriculum, thus allowing trained volunteers to act as crossing guards. On Wednesday, January 9th, a small but dedicated group of volunteers attended the training.  Finally, a solution!

Now, this morning, I received an email from the Ayers Principal, Ms, Charla Hernandez informing me that she had attended the MDUSD School Board meeting last night (January 14th) where the School Board stated that no volunteers may act as crossing guards. Ms. Hernandez also informed me that we can no longer act as crossing guards in front of Ayers. The children are now left to their own devices to get safely across the street. This is completely unacceptable.

I am now appealing to a broad group of you, administrators, elected officials and local media to help get this issue solved. Enough is enough. I realize that this all comes down to liability. There must be a way to make this work. This must be corrected immediately to insure the safety of the hundreds of children at Ayers. I am sure as more budget cuts loom, the City of Concord may consider eliminating all paid crossing guards, as they attempted to do in June of 2012.

Sincerely,

Kristi Buchholz
Ayers Parent, Ayers PTA Executive VP, Ayers Safety Committee Member

Does the crosswalk at Ayers Elementary need a guard? How should it be staffed? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments.

Kristi Buchholz January 15, 2013 at 08:55 PM
I did receive a call from MDUSD School Board Member Brian Lawrence this morning, within minutes of sending my letter. He was very helpful, assuring me that the School District is in contact with the Police Department. He reiterated that yes, it is a liability issue and he will follow up with me as soon as he gets more information. - Kristi
Kathy D January 16, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Several districts contract crossing guard services to American Guard Services. MDUSD is one. I don't know how they determine which intersections or crossings are staffed, however.
Kristi Buchholz January 16, 2013 at 11:52 PM
Kathy, yes, the City of Concord funds some, at a cost of nearly $8000 per guard. As non profit organizations, most PTA's or other parent groups simply do not have $8000 to spare. Concord planned to eliminate all paid crossing guards last year, but decided to postpone the elimination for at least this school year.
Charlie January 17, 2013 at 07:01 PM
If liability is an issue (I assume this has to do with the volunteer being hit by a car?), are we just waiting for the first child to be hit before we decide what's important? You can't get cheaper help than a VOLUNTEER - would someone please step up and cover the liability? Kudos to you, Kristie, for continuing to pursue this very important issue!
Kathy D January 22, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Districts can be liable for injuries or deaths if children are injured or killed while having to cross "dangerous" intersections to get to/from school. Hence, crossing guards are important. A crossing guard, her child and another parent, were struck at Turner Elementary in Antioch back in October. They were standing on the sidewalk and struck by a speeding drunk driver trying to pass other cars. If volunteers are used, who is going to bear the liability for any injuries if a volunteer is struck? Is a child's life worth $8,000?
Kristi Buchholz January 31, 2013 at 12:49 AM
We have great news! Ayers will be moving forward with the pilot program for volunteer crossing guards. I am honestly not sure who is shouldering the liability at this point, but we have the go ahead from both MDUSD and the City of Concord!
Anne Lawrence January 30, 2014 at 03:41 PM
How is it that you don't have a crossing guard? I feel like that's the first thing every school needs! Do many kids walk to school? I always walked when I was in elementary school. It was the best part of my day. http://security-unlimited.com

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