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Where were the crossing guards?

I walked up Beryl Street on a recent Tuesday morning. A little before 8 o’clock. I passed Beryl Heights Elementary School. I stopped to wait for the light to change at N. Maria and saw a young man who I guessed was in the second or third grade. His backpack was about as big as he was. The young scholar waiting patiently on the opposite sidewalk to cross the last intersection before reaching his school.

He looked both ways then cautiously stepped off the sidewalk when the light changed. It wasn’t that long ago I taught my son the finer points of staying alive while navigating traffic. I never got to see him cross a street without my supervision so I have no idea whether he did it with as much care as the little guy who passed me in the crosswalk. I hope he did.

I couldn’t help but wonder why these students weren’t protected by a crossing guard. I’ve passed this intersection many times in the morning and afternoon on school days. This was the first time I noticed it unguarded. I couldn’t help but wonder why.

A friendly, young woman held up a stop sign so I could cross Prospect. She had a more regal uniform under her reflective vest than other crossing guards I’d seen. I asked her why the other intersection was unmanned. She told me she was a police cadet and she was filling in until the city hired enough crossing guards.

Was it merely a coincidence that two nearly adjacent intersections leading to Beryl Heights Elementary didn’t have their own crossing guards? Was it this way throughout the city? Maybe this group of sweet-looking, little kids was actually so hard on their crossing guards that they stressed out and quit in protest.

There were lots of possibilities for the absence of crossing guards on that street, that day but the cadet had said the city needed to hire more guards. Could the lack of adequate personnel be due to budget issues? That would be hard to believe. Tax revenue form a handful of Redondo Beach homes could probably fund the entire crossing guard program. Hopefully, the city hadn’t spent its crossing guard money on more frivolous line item expense such as consultants, focus groups or new vehicles for city departments.

If I were still the parent of a grammar school-aged kid, I would have had a bigger problem with the N. Maria intersection than I would have had with Prospect. N. Maria had no safety measures in place, no warning sign, no crossing guard.

Redondo Beach crossing guards operate “under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Police Department”, according to the city web site. If the police department found a cadet for the intersection of Beryl and Prospect, why hadn’t they found someone for Beryl and N. Maria? Why hadn’t they redirected someone from parking enforcement or some other department?

I’m reasonably sure parents would line up for the opportunity to volunteer to fill spots for sick or absent crossing guards. It would take a little coordination to recruit and train parents but it would certainly be worth the effort.

The little boy I passed didn’t need any help crossing the street but needing help shouldn’t be the test for providing public safety resources. I think we’d all be happy if we never needed to call on the police, fire personnel or lifeguards. But it’s important to know that like crossing guards, they’re ready to help if we need them.

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