Crossing guards drive home message at Penticton school

Parkway Elementary using a wooden crossing guard in a wheelchair following a number of accidents in the school crosswalk

Principal Kelly Jones of Parkway Elementary School watches from the sidewalk as students Kyarah Burchell and Douglas Korsmo use the Kinney Avenue crosswalk in front of the school. The wooden figures identifying the crossing were both struck by vehicles last year but have since been repaired and are back on duty.

After two separate collisions last fall — one of which involved a speeding, hit-and-run driver — the wooden child crossing guards are back on duty at Parkway Elementary.

As a way to drive home the point to motorists about the need to pay attention, the male figure is now confined to a wheelchair and wears a neck brace.

However, even with these visual markers and the added bright orange cones near the Kinney Avenue crossing, school principal Kelly Jones maintains the problems continue.

“I think what it says is that people just don’t seem to be getting the message to slow down,” said Jones, who has almost been hit himself while setting up the crosswalk alerts. “We have a great fear for the children because there just seems to be a lack of attention from people who are on the road.

“You can’t tell me that where they (drivers) are trying to go is more important than the lives of these kids. Think how bad you would feel if you hit one of them just because you don’t want to slow down for a couple of minutes.”

The seriousness of the situation became evident on the last day of school in June 2011, when a young female student crossing attendant suffered serious injuries after a vehicle ran over both her feet.

According to Jones, she is still recovering and there is a strong likelihood she will not be able to pursue her passion of dancing.

It was also that incident which prompted school officials to cancel the crossing guard program and go to the wood figures.

Since the accident, despite the increased police presence, ticketing of illegally parked vehicles in the area of the school and the temporary placement of digital speed reader boards, the problems persisted leading up the collisions with the inanimate figures.

“They (crashes) were just a couple of weeks in between where the girl sign was smashed to pieces and the person just took off,” said Jones. “The other one was a truck that was making the turn (from McGraw Street onto Kinney). It wasn’t going too fast, it just didn’t make the turn properly, but he did stop.”

The school is also continuing an education program for parents and students around the use of crosswalks.

That includes the fact the 30 kilometre per hour speed limit is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days, not just when kids are coming or going to class.

The one thing the principal noticed which really made a difference were the speed reader boards when they were in use near the school.

“The drivers see that and they look down at their speedometer and say, ‘Oh, I better slow down.’ It’s instant feedback,” said Jones.

He was so impressed with the results of the devices he has begun a fundraiser called Adopt a School Zone.

Through the campaign, the principal hopes to encourage local businesses to contribute money that would be used to purchase signs to be put up in school zones throughout the district.

“What we’re trying to do is to create a greater awareness among the public and most importantly make it safer for our children,” said Jones.

Anyone who would like more information about the program can contact the principal at 250-770-7686.


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