Faced with complaints about its system for placing crossing guards at schools, the Raleigh City Council will consider simply paying for guards at every local elementary and middle school that wants one.
If approved by the City Council this month, the change would nearly double the number of lower-grade schools with crossing guards. Currently, the city funds guards at 27 schools, according to city documents.
Schools on a long list, including Carnage Middle School near Garner Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Southeast Raleigh and Underwood Elementary School near Glenwood Avenue in Northwest Raleigh, do not have guards. The city chooses where to place guards based on a point system of traffic and pedestrian counts, raising complaints from some parents.
Anne Wein, a board member at the Underwood Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, hopes her school is among the newly guarded. Crossing duty is left now to the school’s principal and a teacher, she said.
“It gets kind of crazy – car pools and school buses, and being near Five Points,” she said.
Previously, whether a school had a guard depended on how well it met the standards. The current year’s budget included money for schools that did not meet the requisite score. That created opposition from some council members who said the system was imperfect and could lead to playing favorites.
“We’re not going by a formula, we’re not going by established protocol, and it ends up just being the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Councilman Bonner Gaylord said during last year’s budget session.
Council members said then that they would review the criteria for appointing guards.
Under the new approach, the system would make money available next school year for a guard at each of the 56 Wake County elementary and middle schools in Raleigh. The guards report to the Raleigh Police Department, which has two crossing guard coordinators.
“I like the sound of that,” Councilman John Odom said at a committee meeting on Tuesday.
The move could cost as much as $223,000 per year, more than doubling the crossing-guard budget. The city pays about $6,700 in wages, equipment and training per guard each year. The Wake County Public School System pays for only a few guards throughout the county.
Staff members at each school would choose whether they want a crossing guard. Eighteen schools without guards already have refused the service, while 21 have told Raleigh police that they want a guard.
A list of the schools that refused, citing low-traffic locations or other reasons that guards were unnecessary, wasn’t immediately available.
Cary already has a guards-for-all policy, according to Mike Kennon, transportation operations manager for Raleigh.
“We were looking for, ‘What’s a good way that’s simple?’” he said.
The proposal could go to the full council as early as next week.