Thursday, January 15, 2004

Police step in to keep students safe on streets

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Police Chief Kenny McCloud stops traffic Tuesday on Dayton Road in Waynesville to aid crossing guard Ellen Powers in helping students cross the street at the end of the school day.
(Meggan Booker photo)
This Warren County village is taking new steps to boost child safety in Waynesville school zones.

Village and school officials have discussed the need for a cooperative safety plan for some time, but concerns were highlighted recently after long-time crossing guard Pat Irelan retired.

The brightness of all traffic lights will be increased, reflective strips will be installed in the crosswalks and the village will purchase "pedestrian crossing" signs. The police chief has even ordered all on-duty officers to be at the school when students are arriving or being dismissed.

This week, orange vests and other safety materials are being delivered to all school crossing guards, who also are getting training from police officers.

"There's no greater concern than the safety of the children," said Rodney Smith, village manager and safety director. "I know the school has some financial constraints, as does the village. But it really takes partnerships like this to make things like this succeed."

In all, the village of 2,725 people is investing upwards of $2,000 on the initial improvements, Smith said. That does not include the long-term costs of the increased lighting and staff.

The safety plan will focus on Dayton Road, where Wayne Local's three schools are located. Cars sometimes speed through there, officials say, though it's a traffic mess at the beginning and end of the day.

"Especially on severe weather days, lots of parents try to get their kids as close to the school as possible," Superintendent Tom Isaacs said. "We're trying to retrain parents that they don't have drop their kids off 5 feet from the door."

The elementary parking lot has been limited to parents of kindergartners, and portable stop signs, similar to those seen in major shopping center parking lots, also will be used to control traffic.

Many of the increased safety features are already in place, though others are weather-dependent and will have to wait for drier, warmer conditions before being installed, Smith said.

"We're trying to do as much as we can," he said. "We want to make sure the kids are safe."


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