Crossing to safety: Be mindful of children as school resumes
August 5, 2013
- "The safety of our children is paramount in what we do." - Gary Gerstner, Fort Campbell Schools assistant superintendent.
- "There is zero tolerance for speeding in school zones. If you are speeding in a school zone, you are being cited." - Sgt. Jeffrey Jessie, traffic section of the Provost Marshal's office traffic section
- "In some incidents last year, people were charged with child endangerment due the proximity to the school bus and/or the proximity to the children and how they were driving. We also issued the normal citations as well -- not stopping for a school bus, etc." - Jessie
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - With Fort Campbell's first day of school Monday, heavy emphasis is being placed on safety. Having school crossing guards at critical locations throughout the installation plays an important role in ensuring that safety.
"The safety of our children is paramount in what we do," said Gary Gerstner, assistant superintendent.
"Seeing how they move from their homes to the school, whether they're riding the school bus or walking to school, we all have to be diligent in our movements. They are going to be lots of streets that need to be crossed. I think everyone should be playing a role in that."
The Fort Campbell Provost Marshal's office, in partnership with Fort Campbell Schools, is posting crossing guards at intersections near Barkley, Barsanti, Jackson, Lincoln, Lucas and Marshall Elementary schools, as well as Wassom and Mahaffey Middle schools and Fort Campbell High School.
"Even if there's a crosswalk, a lot of the cars don't stop for small children," said Sgt. Jeffrey Jessie who works in the traffic section of the Provost Marshal's office. "You've got kids trying to go across the street and they don't see them, they don't stop. Every area will have at least one crossing guard at critical intersections while certain schools have two, due to their location," said Jessie.
"Barkley Elementary is one of the schools that have two because of the housing area access road from the back and Lincoln Elementary has two as well, because it is on a gate access road. We usually have nine to 10 crossing guards each day, in the morning and afternoon."
The corner of Bastogne Avenue and Airborne Street is another important location that requires additional crossing guards.
"Clearly a critical location and one of the most visible ones is down by FCHS, Jackson Elementary and Lucas Elementary, at that T- intersection there by the [School Age Services] building, so there's lots of movement," Jessie said. "These schools are also between Gates 2 and 3, so we have traffic that's coming on as well."
In addition to crossing guards, school zone speed limits are reduced to 20 miles an hour during the school day.
Although there were no accidents reported last year, Jessie said there were a few close calls due to speeding. Driving within the posted speed limit will be enforced.
"There is zero tolerance for speeding in school zones," said Jessie. "If you are speeding in a school zone, you are being cited."
After passing a crossing guard, drivers should remain vigilant through the entire school zone as children may cross at locations where there is no crossing guard or crosswalk.
"In some incidents last year, people were charged with child endangerment due the proximity to the school bus and/or the proximity to the children and how they were driving," Jessie said. "We also issued the normal citations as well -- not stopping for a school bus, etc."
Another safety issue noted last year involved vehicles passing school buses traveling to and from Jackson Elementary.
"Vehicles were traveling around the islands near Cordes Street and passing buses in a rush, late for work, late coming home or whatever, trying to go around the bus and that just creates a big safety concern for our children on the installation," said Jessie.
This year, some of the bus routes have been modified to avoid a recurrence of the issue.
"The Provost Marshal's office, Fort Campbell Schools superintendent and the Transportation Office worked together and corrected that, moving some bus stops [to safer locations]," said Jessie.
"We also reinforce safety aspects a number of times each year by doing things like bus evacuation drills. We continue to look at how can we best get children where they need to get and how can we best not impact the mission by delaying folks from getting to their jobs," said Gerstner.
Inclement weather also poses a safety concern.
"Inclement weather causes a bigger hindrance because the visibility for the driver decreases and MPs are out there during early morning when it's not too bright light out, low visibility, which poses a risk," said Jessie.
"Then you have children running because they don't want to stay out in the weather."
"If we could get people to do the speed limit and just be more aware in the school areas, of what's going on in their surroundings, we'd have a lot more efficient traffic flow in the morning time during school," continued Jessie.
In addition to stopping for children, drivers should also be prepared to stop for exiting school buses.
"We received complaints last year about crossing guards [stopping traffic] allowing school buses to exit the school," said Jessie. "If we were to just leave the school buses to themselves, no one would stop, especially if they don't have children in them."
"Many of these buses pull double duty -- picking up elementary kids and then picking up middle and then high school. For these buses, getting held up because of traffic creates a delay which then creates more traffic flow issues," continued Jessie.
With Monday as the official start of the school season at Fort Campbell, drivers should anticipate delays on the roadways, and they are encouraged to factor in additional time for their morning and evening commutes once school begins.
"We need for drivers to just be more cognizant of their environment. Turn down the music a little bit, go a couple of miles slower than the speed limit -- there are going to be children in these areas and they need to slow down and pay more attention," said Gerstner.
Ensuring school year safety is a community effort and everyone is asked do their part.
"The movement of those children, whether they're walking directly to school or a bus stop, everyone has to play a part as a crossing guard -- we all need to be crossing guards in that regard," said Gerstner. "Everyone needs to serve that role."