EAST PROVIDENCE — Though there have been no reported incidents or accidents, East Providence School Department officials have responded to parental complaints about changes to busing eligibility and walking distances by asking the police department to post three more crossing guards at busy intersections.
The school department has requested guards to be positioned at walks at Broadway and Warren Avenue, Pawtucket Avenue and St. Michael’s Court as well as Waterman Avenue and James Street.
“The plan the way it was drawn up was not adequate,” School Committee Chairman Charlie Tsonos said. “If they did not recognize the need, then the police department would not have responded to the request. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.”
Before school even started earlier this month, the EPPD’s traffic control unit added two crossing guards at the intersections of Pawtucket and Wilson Avenues for students walking to the Francis Elementary School along with another at Wannisett and Crescent View Avenues for students walking to Waddington Elementary.
The moves were made in response to changes adopted by the Budget Commission, which lengthened the distance requirements for children to able to receive bus privileges. Students in high school now must walk if they live within two miles of the building, middle schoolers within 1.5 miles and elementary students within 1 mile. The Budget Commission sought to save money on buses by eliminating or combining existing routes.
“I met with school officials last week,” EPPD Chief Joseph Tavares confirmed. “We discussed the changes based on the bus routes having been cut back. We evaluated the safety of the locations based on the age of the children walking and the amount of traffic in the area and it was decided that we need to take appropriate action.”
Chief Tavares said one potential new guard has gone through the screening process and is eligible to begin training for the job. He also said the situation is fluid and that existing guards could be moved from low to high-traffic areas.
“There’s the possibility that we may look to replace crossing guards from one position to another, but, again, we continue to evaluate the situation,” the chief added. “This is a different year. The number of children walking and riding the bus has changed. We’re talking to the crossing guards for their feedback. But we’re not just relying on what they’re telling us. We’re observing the situation and we continue to evaluate it.”
If the three new crossing guards were to be added, the cost would be roughly $18,000, which tacked on to the two others already positioned brings the total of additional staffing for the 2012-13 term to $30,000. The Budget Commission must approve the spending increase. The issue, however, does not appear on the body’s agenda for its Thursday, Sept. 20, meeting.
“I hope it goes through,” Chairman Tsonos added. “The safety of the children is paramount.”