Two crossing guards remain posted at crosswalks near three Sylvania schools at the board of education's expense this year - one of whom was funded last year by the city of Sylvania. The other replaces volunteers.
"I don't feel comfortable letting it go at our end," Superintendent of Schools Brad Rieger said last week, noting that the guard's presence last year at a McCord Road intersection near two schools had led to more students walking. "We feel like the crossing guards are beneficial."
The guards at the Gaines Mill Drive and Coppersmith Road intersection on McCord and in front of Highland Elementary School on Erie Street will be there for at least the entire 2010-11 school year while officials continue to observe and assess how many students use those crossings, Mr. Rieger said.
The guards will cost the district about $12,000.
The Gaines Mill-Coppersmith guard was paid for by the city between March, 2009, and June in hope that pedestrian traffic to nearby Sylvan Elementary School and McCord Junior High School would increase enough to justify a crosswalk signal there.
But a Safe Routes to School study conducted by a city consultant found that while the guard's presence did induce more walking and biking, it wasn't enough to qualify for a stoplight. Instead, the study found that parents preferred the adult supervision for their children and recommended that the guard there be retained.
Yet while the federally funded, state-managed Safe Routes to School program could pay for sidewalk construction, crosswalk upgrades, new signs, and other physical improvements, it won't pay for crossing guards. City council last month balked at continuing its financial commitment after having paid $15,000 for the study and about $8,000 for the guard.
Some city council members suggested the school district recruit parent volunteers for the Gaines Mill-Coppersmith crosswalk, as had been done at Highland. But school officials reported that they had opted to pay a parent to watch the Highland crossing for the final month of the 2009-2010 school year because the volunteers there had been unreliable.
Jim Nusbaum, the Sylvania Board of Education's president, said he supported the school administration's decision to pay for the guards this year, while expecting discussions to be held in the future with the city and Sylvania Township about pedestrian safety so that "there is an equitable division of that responsibility."
"The kids need to be safe," Mr. Nusbaum said. "That's part of our responsibility."
During a council meeting last week, Police Chief William Rhodus said the death last winter of a Northview High School student, struck by an SUV while crossing Erie to board her school bus, may have played into the school district's decision to keep the crossing guards this year.
The Highland crossing is only a few blocks east of where Northview freshman Morgan Duris, 15, died Jan. 21. The driver of the SUV that hit her, Cynthia Anderson, 66, of Toledo, pleaded no contest last week to aggravated vehicular manslaughter, and is to be sentenced Friday.
The McCord guard, the superintendent said, has had a twofold effect: His presence is believed to have improved driver behavior, and also has steered children to the designated crosswalk instead of "darting across the street" anywhere along several blocks of McCord near the junior high.
Jeff Ballmer, Sylvania's service director, said city staff have been preparing a Safe Routes to School grant application "for about $200,000" to pay for crosswalk painting and sign improvements on school routes throughout the city.
A proposal may be submitted to city council for its Oct. 4 meeting, Mr. Ballmer said.
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