Crossing guard shortage has police officers filling in
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – An accident involving a student on a bike during Green Bay’s first week of school, has the community and members of City Council looking for a change.
“Even before I ran for office there has been a loud demand for a change at (Aldo Leopold),” District 4 Alderperson Bill Galvin said. “Monroe Avenue has been a major source of complaints for excessive speed and inattentive driving by motorists even before I was first elected, and continues to be.”
However, Green Bay Police Commander Kevin Warych said it’s more complicated than just adding a crossing guard.
“The police department can’t arbitrarily take a guard from a corner or put a guard on a corner – that is not our role,” Warych said.
He said that decision is made by the city’s Traffic, Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, and then ultimately approved by City Council.
“The communication needs to go through Common Council,” Warych said. “The process is in place, meaning city government, the alders, the police department. We have a very good working relationship and we work together to make sure that traffic studies get to a traffic engineer to determine if a guard is needed. If the traffic study says a guard needs to be there, then we put a guard there. If the traffic study says a guard does not need to be there, then we don’t put a guard there. That is where we determine what intersections have guards.”
Galvin said he planned to ask for a traffic study to be conducted on the Porlier/Monroe intersection, where the accident happened, to determine if a crossing guard is needed.
However, he has since redirected his efforts, after learning one had been completed recently.
“I found out a study was done a few years ago,” Galvin said. “The recommendation was not to have a guard. The school district asked for permission to have their staff cross the children and it was granted. They crossed kids for a year and stopped. I am looking into why they stopped. I promise you, we have been in contact with the police department, as alders, we have been in contact with the city engineer for traffic, and we are working on some solutions.”
He also called on the community as a whole to be more attentive when on city roads.
“No parent wants to get a phone call that they have to go to a local hospital to see their child because they have been hit by a car,” Galvin said. “It is a problem. Everyone look at yourself. Look at what you are doing when you are driving and try to be more attentive. Look out for other people. Try to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.”
Crossing guard shortages
Warych said the incident last week near Aldo Leopold wasn’t a result of the crossing guard shortage, because the intersection didn’t have one to begin with.
However, he said the city is short eight crossing guards, which has put extra strain on the police department.
Last fall, the city made the decision to contract with a third-party contractor, Cross Safe, to employ and supervise the crossing guards for Green Bay schools.
“Historically, the crossing guard program was run through the police department,” Warych said. “We knew that other cities had contracted the crossing guard programs out. When you look at Appleton. The City of Appleton, they use a vendor. And when our crossing guard administrator had retired, we had nobody internally that wanted the job. We thought it was a good way to transition our program to a third-party vendor.”
He said the shift was also a cost- and time-saving measure.
“It did provide cost savings to the city,” he said. “Over three years, it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was some money. The majority of the time to administer the program was the most savings, came from current staff.”
When the city contracted with Cross Safe, the leadership said turnover was expected – estimated around 30%.
“I would say the 30% estimate of turnover is on the low-end,” Warych said. “There was a substantial turnover.”
He said he wouldn’t speculate what caused the significant turnover.
“I can’t answer that question because I don’t know why every individual guard chose not to come back as a crossing guard,” he said. “But I can say that there was a high turnover.”
Warych said when intersections don’t have a designated crossing guard assigned, the police department picks up the slack.
“We have to make sure that those intersections are staffed,” he said. “I mean that is the No. 1 priority – children and pedestrian safety.”
Warych said officers work overtime to staff those corners.
Warych said the department will do whatever it can to promote the open crossing guard positions.
“It is just constant education of the community about what a great job this is,” he said. “Crossing guards have a big influence on children’s lives. They see them to and from school.”
He said the department has reached out to neighborhood associations and community partners and posted the vacancies on social media.
“If a crossing guard gets hired and they bring in a friend, they have a referral bonus that they get,” he said.
Warych also said crossing guard shortages are widespread.
“Crossing guard shortages are not Green Bay-specific,” he said. “I mean it is everywhere. Other departments are sharing the same struggles as we are.”