Youth council steps up: Students become crossing guardsOriginally Published September 6, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.
Updated September 6, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.
HASKELL The campus for the Harmony Grove School District in Haskell faces the busy traffic of Arkansas 229. The roadway carries Haskell residents to Interstate 30. Add in the vehicles of parents taking their children to and from school, and that is a lot of traffic.
The city added a pedestrian crosswalk between the Haskell City Hall and the schools, but school and city officials said drivers ignore the broad white lines across the road, and concern for children walking to school was growing.
“From the reports from the police officers and my own observations, no one is paying attention to the crosswalk,” Haskell Mayor Jeff Arey said. “No children have been hit, but we have had some close calls.”
Arey said he would like to have members of the Haskell Police Department on duty at the site, but with only one officer at a time working, one is seldom available.
A group of students who go to the school came to the mayor with a solution.
“The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council had a meeting in the summer and brought up the problem,” Arey said. “They voted to volunteer to be crossing guards and help younger children cross the street.”
The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council in Haskell was formed in 2011 and is made up of young residents from age 14 to high school seniors. Arey said the members of the
council were organized as volunteers for city projects, but more importantly, to find their own issues and seek solutions.
Arey said the youth group saw the road crossing as a problem they could solve through their own efforts.
Since school started, members of the youth council have been acting as a safety patrol at the crosswalk. The high school students stop traffic and escort the younger children to the schoolyard.
On a rainy Friday morning, three members of the advisory council were at their post.
“We are here today. We take turns working the crosswalk and have a shift here about once a week,” said Tyler Hagerty, a senior at Harmony Grove High School.
The students have seen the risk involved in crossing the highway as students themselves, and they have seen the disregard of the drivers.
“The other day a police officer was stopping traffic at the crosswalk,” said Erika Hampton, also a senior. “He was trying to get the traffic to stop, and a guy just kept on going and almost hit him.”
Hampton said the driver was talking on his cellphone.
“Most people coming along should know this is a school zone, and it is well marked,” Mayor Arey said. “Yet we are seeing so many distracted drivers texting or talking on their phones.”
The crossing guards are only on duty for about half an hour, and on the rainy morning, they helped only a few walkers and one bicycle rider who walked his bike across the street to the school parking lot.
“It is busier when the weather is nicer,” said Megan Foote, another crossing guard.
The guards worked as a team, with one of them holding a stop sign and walking to block one lane, while another took a stop sign to the other lane. Then the third member would accompany the younger students across the street and walk back to the guards’ post in front of City Hall.
The high school students can leave their post just before 8 a.m. and are able to get to class before the first bell, but the system is harder to manage in the afternoon, Arey said.
The elementary school gets out a half hour earlier than the high school, and the kids would have to miss too much of their class,” Arey said. “We are looking for adult volunteers who can be crossing guards in the afternoon for about half an hour.”
Residents interested in volunteering as a crossing guard are asked to call the Haskell Mayor’s Office at (501) 776-2666.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.