It took years, but the efforts paid off as Rosemont Middle School gains a permanent crossing guard.
By Mary O’KEEFE
After about five years of watching traffic, talking to law enforcement and undergoing traffic studies, the plea by the community for a permanent crossing guard for Rosemont Middle School has been answered.
“The kids will be thrilled; they adore Mario [Bocanegra, the present crossing guard]. They know he helps them cross that street safely,” said Rosemont Principal Cynthia Livingston.
A little over a year ago, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office placed a crossing guard at the crosswalk at Rosemont Avenue and Los Amigos Street as a pilot program. Livingston said the effect was immediate.
“It not only helps keep [our kids] safe, it helps with the traffic flow,” she added.
Crossing guards are hired by the county, not the Glendale Unified School District, and the rule, until Tuesday, was they paid for crossing guards at elementary schools only. The approval now allows not only Rosemont to have a crossing guard but any middle school within the unincorporated areas of LA County.
Like it did for the precedent-setting dog park at the county’s Crescenta Valley Park, the community coming together was an essential element in getting a crossing guard – and is an example to other middle schools.
Over the five years, Crescenta Valley Town Council president Robbyn Battles has gotten to know the staff at LA County Public Works, CHP, CV Sheriff’s Station and Glendale Unified School District very well. She spent countless hours standing on sidewalks and even where there were not sidewalks with CHP and public works in an effort to monitor the traffic. Cars making U-turns in crosswalks, stopping in the middle of the street to let children out and kids dodging vehicles were just some of the actions she witnessed.
Battles credits Dean Lehman from public works and his staff for going above and beyond in helping them.
The county had placed a lighted crosswalk at the intersection, but the lights were difficult to see and it didn’t stop kids from darting across the street.
“[Crescenta Valley Town Council] is very pleased today,” Battles said after the approval was issued.
Now other unincorporated county boards will be able to request a crossing guard without going through the years of research and follow up, she added.
La Crescenta is unique in that it has few sidewalks and some very narrow streets. However large or small the streets, the combination of traffic and kids walking to school has always been a concern.
“Other communities have these wide streets with tons of traffic,” Battles said. “That crossing guard is their buffer.”
Scott Anderle, GUSD assistant director of Student Services, was at the board meeting. The district has schools within the city of Glendale and the unincorporated areas of LA County/La Crescenta. City of Glendale schools have experienced student tragedies in their schools in the past. Anderle said he was hopeful this effort would help other school districts.
The support of law enforcement, CVTC, GUSD and Rosemont staff was important in the success of getting a crossing guard, but another important element was parents. Michele Doud and Kelly Ralston never gave up in their efforts to keep children walking to school safe. They went to CVTC meetings, met with GUSD administrators, and met with Livingston and Battles numerous times. They spoke at PTA meetings and never ever stopped ringing the safety bell.
It was Battles, Livingston, Doud and Ralston who spoke to the board of supervisors on Tuesday. Together they had reached out to the community and asked for letters to be sent in support of the crossing guard.
“I have received 1,000 letters from [Crescenta Valley],” said Supervisor Antonovich during the meeting.
Those letters ranged from parents and residents to kids asking the supervisors to keep them safe. When the middle school crossing guard was approved, both Ralston and Doud were a little shocked; in fact, so were Livingston and Battles. All had been fighting the good fight for so long the approval seemed to come so quickly.
“We didn’t do this for just our children, but for all the children in the same situation,” Doud said.
The other piece of the support puzzle was from Supervisor Antonovich and his staff. The powerful foursome of Battles, Livingston, Doud and Ralston was in constant contact with the supervisor’s office.
“I think we have a supervisor and his team that are very attentive to our county. This would not have happened without his support,” Ralston said.
“La Crescenta just paved the way for all middle school kids in LA unincorporated to have a safer route to school. My hope is other cities follow our lead. I am overwhelmed by the compassion and support from our community,” Battles said. We all should be proud of what we have accomplished.”
In the end, after the official battle and traffic studies, the real winners are the students and, of course, Bocanegra.
Battles and Livingston watched the Rosemont kids cross the intersection with “their” crossing guard on Wednesday. They watched, and cried, as the kids high-fived Bocanegra who was like a “rock star,” Battles said.