As new school year starts, what residents and motorists need to know about crossing guards in Oxford
By Steven Hoffman
All people who come in contact with children play a vital role in educating students. The first person that many students see during a school day is their bus driver or their crossing guard. But who is in charge of the guards? And who is eligible to be hired? Do we have to obey crossing guards?
The State of Pennsylvania has used the State Borough Code for 84 years to create local ordinances. Many, many years ago, it is presumed, the school directors of the Oxford Area School District requested that Oxford Borough hire, train, and supervise the school crossing guards. No one is sure when that request was made, but since it has been the ordinance, it must continue to be the ordinance, unless the board of school directors passes their own resolution requesting the authority, hiring, and oversight of the guards be returned to them. Crossing guards must have a high school diploma or GED, transportation and valid driver’s license. They will also need to pass background clearance. Upon hiring, the required clearances needed are the Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History Report (Act 34); Child Abuse Clearance Report (Act 151); Federal Criminal History Report (Act 114).
And, yes, you have to obey the crossing guards.
Changes for the new school year
For the last 18 months, we have tried to find a reasonable way to place the job of supervising the crossing guards back under school district control. One suggestion made to the Safety Committee of Oxford Area School District was utilizing the district’s own school officers since they have many more employees working at one time that the Oxford Borough Police Department. We explained that police officers are not able to be at posts or supervising the crossing guards, as they have responsibilities for the safety of the entire borough. The borough’s police officers would assist whenever possible.
We also asked for outside companies to submit proposals to take over all posts, training, liability, uniforms, and sick calls. The Requests For Proposals received were much more (three times more) than our current expenses.
Another suggestion was to create an Memorandum Of Understanding with the Oxford Area Education Association, and make the positions extra pay for extra duty.
Contacts were made at the Oxford Senior Center, Oxford Lions Club, and other civic organizations, to hire retired people to serve as crossing guards. In March, I attended the monthly meeting for the Union Fire Company Fire Police. They were willing to help train, but they were not able to work on a daily basis as most of these volunteers have other jobs.
After attending Oxford Area School District meetings in April and May, Chief Sam Iacono and I had to ask borough council to help us resolve the concerns. Who should be in charge, what are the required duties, who will train, who will supervise? Council agreed that we had done everything that we could do, and if the priority is the children, then that’s where we begin our focus.
In June, I attended the Oxford Area School District Board meeting to inform the district and the public that due to lack of applicants, we would have to shift the focus from using the crossing guards to stop traffic to allow long lines of buses to exit and enter all the school grounds to using our guards- we will now focus on the most important aspect of their job—helping pedestrians cross the street.
Next Monday, Aug. 26, will begin the 2019-2020 school year. The school crossing guards will be trained and certified by Fire Police 1st Lt. Michael Bodnar this week. Their uniforms have been ordered, along with new “STOP” paddles and whistles. The positions of the crossing guards around the school zone will be monitored and adjusted as needed, depending on where the children are walking from, and where they need to cross. The crossing guards will be monitored by me, Chief Iacono, and on-duty patrol officers until such a time that it is determined that we need a permanent supervisor.