LTEs/Gov’t Correspondence RE: High School/Civic Center Crossing

The following was submitted to the city and copied to the school board on 10-6-08 and ran in the Oak Ridger (along with another letter) on 10-15-08.

All: In an effort to heighten public awareness, the following has also been submitted to the Oak Ridger. Though addressed directly to the city, any and all feedback is appreciated as I would like to present a follow up letter to the Oak Ridger with your responses.

Council/Mr. O’Connor/Chief Beams,

I would like to thank you all again for your continued efforts in minimizing the risks our children face in their commutes to and from school. I would also like to express my sincerest gratitude to all of the crossing guards who have braved taking on such a dangerous job with enthusiasm and heart-felt concern for our children’s safety. Undoubtedly, without their commitment and perseverance, I know that many of our children would still be in harm’s way.

While much progress has been made, there are some serious issues that still need to be addressed. Most pressing, as expressed by Ms. Ashburn and Ms. Kadas in their letters to the editor (found here and here) is that it is apparent that our children and crossing guards are still in danger because of the many motorists who continue to show disregard for safety and the law even when a crossing guard is present and the school zone is in effect. At the Turnpike crosswalk across from the high school main entrance, these dangers appear to increase after the crossing guard’s shift has ended because foot traffic to the civic center and the library remains steady with students who participate in extra-curricular activities traversing that route.

In addition to her comments in her letter to the editor, Ms. Ashburn has shared the following (paraphrased):

– One day last week when she was signaling one car to turn left into the parking lot, another car going west bound had to slam on the brakes because the driver wasn’t paying attention and barely stopped.
– There have been several near misses like that and she would feel terrible if an accident happened
– Her main concern is for those kids having to cross there especially when she is NOT there after her regular time. The speed limit is only reduced for 30 minutes and then it goes back up even while she is there and that is when it becomes more dangerous and many kids are still crossing at that time
– She said she is willing to stay later if the city would allow her and has made her concerns known to her superiors

Further supporting Ms. Ashburn’s concerns, I’ve heard of a number of near-misses and chaotic scenes including from someone who witnessed a near- miss of Ms. Ashburn just last week by a pick up truck who’d apparently been speeding so fast that he almost hit her. Because our crossing guards are limited in that they cannot direct traffic and because such incidents have become too frequent, these matters need to be addressed immediately. Since school began, has the city returned to observe all of the crossing guard stations for remaining safety issues, levels of traffic, and the effectiveness of changes made since last year? What other steps has the city taken to address these matters? Also, at a cost to the city of $4 an hour, will the city take Ms. Ashburn up on her offer to work later?

Regards,

Trina Baughn

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