Crossing Guard Program to End June 2016 (Originally Posted 12/12/2015)
For decades, school crossing guards have been posted at some of the busiest street corners in the Borough of Bath for George Wolf Elementary school children. Are crossing guards required? State law provides that crossing guards are the responsibility of the municipality, the school district, both parties, or neither.
In partnership with the Northampton Area School District, providing crossing guards has been a shared courtesy with the Borough. Both entities have paid equal portions to employ at least four crossing guards, which included their training, background checks, and equipment. With ever-increasing traffic concerns, especially with the number of trucks that pass through Bath, Borough leaders began weighing the risk associated with providing this benefit.
Its well known that traffic in Bath is a hassle. Vehicle and truck congestion is becoming more of a problem as commercial and residential developments continue in the region. Traffic issues will only continue to become more of a problem. Many Borough residents share with Council how dangerous it is as a pedestrian attempting to cross downtown intersections. Imagine how dangerous this can be for elementary school-aged children between 5 and 11 years old. Crossing guards are equally at risk to be posted among some of the highest traffic counts found among area boroughs.
The Borough of Bath is tenth among all 27 boroughs of the Lehigh Valley in terms of vehicle and truck miles traveled. Bath ranks seventh overall in Northampton County. If Bath’s traffic is compared with other Lehigh Valley boroughs of its own size, it would be third to Wind Gap and Coopersburg. What is the one major exception that would put Bath #1 in the traffic rankings?– Wind Gap has Pa. State Route 33 and Coopersburg has Pa. State Route 309, major highways!
What is vehicle miles traveled? Vehicle miles traveled is the product of how many vehicles were counted on a road segment when the segment distance is measured in miles. This method is used to gather traffic data because average annual daily vehicle counts is a rate that cannot be summed.
What about individual traffic counts where the crossing guards are located? At one time, Bath had four intersections manned with a crossing guard. These locations are: E Northampton St and N Chestnut St, W Main St and Race St, Main St at Walnut St, and E Main St at Spruce St. Earlier this year, the crossing guard at E Northampton and N Chestnut St resigned after the 2014-2015 school year. Of the remaining guard locations, here is the average annual daily traffic counts; W Main St at Race St – 11,859 trucks and cars, Main St at Walnut St – 11,628 trucks and cars, E Main St at Spruce St – 5,226 trucks and cars. This is a significant amount of traffic, especially for children to walk to school through.
You might ask, but those traffic counts are for the entire day– a 24 hour period. Well, the Northampton Area School District conducted its own traffic count and observation at Main St and Walnut St November 4, 2015. Fifteen minute observations were made in the morning and afternoon hours, during times when children cross the street coming to school and going home. In the morning, 291 trucks and cars were recorded. In the afternoon, 261 trucks and cars were recorded. During both observation periods, the school district noted between 10 and 12 separate violations of vehicles running red lights. Its incomprehensible to image a crossing guard managing the safety of your elementary school son or daughter crossing Pa. State Route 512 at Main St when a tractor-trailer or vehicle runs a red light!
If these incidents are occurring and traffic is only increasing in the area, why would anyone think we should continue to chance the personal safety of crossing guards and children when better means of getting the kids to school is available? Borough leaders believe the safest way for George Wolf Elementary students to school is by bus. There is no greater protection but for a child to ride a bus to school, rather than having they walk across busy borough streets. The school district has a bus route plan for Bath schoolchildren that would provide the safest, most effective means for children to arrive at George Wolf Elementary School. The bus route can be implemented at a cost comparable to just a few gallons of diesel fuel.
The practical and safest way to have children arrive at George Wolf School is by bus. From this conclusion, crossing guards will no longer be needed. Those who have filled the Crossing Guard position made significant contributions in keeping kids safe and it is greatly appreciated.
With access to buses, parents should take full advantage of that resource. Anything less would be individually irresponsible considering what is well known of the traffic in Bath. So, if children are sent to school walking, while buses are available, parents set themselves and their children out to cross busy streets at their own peril.
As the bus route is phased-in and with the ending of the 2015-2016 school year in June, so will a long-standing history of the crossing guard program Bath.
***UPDATE AS OF DECEMBER 15TH, 2015***
Bath officials, the Mayor, Borough Manager, Police Chief, and a Borough Councilwoman were invited to the Northampton Area School District Community Council Meeting on 12/15/2015 at 9:00 AM. After that meeting, Borough leaders were requested to meet with members of the Northampton Area School District (NASD) to include members of the NASD Board of Directors. This was an unexpected and unscheduled meeting to discuss School Crossing Guards in Bath. Turns out, the NASD had some good news to share with the Borough!
During this meeting, the School District was again, reassured Borough Council’s decision to extend the crossing guard program until June, 2016, after the NASD requested that course of action be taken last month. NASD wanted more time in planning a bus service to which both entities agree would provide the safest access for children to reach George Wolf Elementary School. The NASD explained that the time extension wouldn’t be necessary.
The NASD believes, as the Borough does, that child safety is a number one priority. And as such, the School District wanted to take on more of a proactive role in this issue. The NASD was pleased to inform Borough leaders they are fully prepared to provide a bus service plan that would not require additional time to roll-out as once thought. The new bus service will be in place after the winter break!
Borough leaders thought this was a great initiative on behalf of the NASD. The Borough recommended a transitional period of keeping the Crossing Guards in place until January 29th. The NASD agreed with this assessment. With this bus service in place, Crossing Guards would no longer be required and by February 1, 2016 the program officially ends.
This afternoon, the NASD issued a letter to parents explaining a bus service will be available to George Wolf Elementary students on January 4th, 2016.
Please find below a link to the NASD Letter Home to Parents.
(Last updated 12/15/2015)