Apex budget proposal calls for adding crossing guard at Olive Chapel Elementary

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 22, 2014 

— Lauren Carver walks her daughter to Olive Chapel Elementary School every morning, and she meets her at the school every afternoon to walk home.

Carver said she dreads the crosswalk at the corner of Kelly and Olive Chapel roads. Drivers often don’t yield to pedestrians, and Carver said she has nearly gotten hit several times.

Carver became so frustrated with the intersection that she began to take videos and pictures of the license plates of drivers who speed and fail to yield. She emails the images to the police department.

Other parents have also complained about traffic safety outside Olive Chapel Elementary, and Apex leaders have taken notice.

The town might hire a part-time crossing guard for the school. It would cost Apex about $8,460 in base pay, plus benefits, said Eleanor Green, human resources director for Apex.

Three elementary schools in Apex already have crossing guards. The town expects to spend a total of about $35,000 in the coming year in salaries and benefits for four guards, including one at Olive Chapel, Green said.

The goal is to have a crossing guard at Olive Chapel starting in August, said Police Chief John Letteney.

Wake County schools don’t have a formal policy when it comes to crossing guards. Some municipalities, including Apex and Raleigh, pay for crossing guards out of their operating budgets . At some schools, teachers serve double duty as crossing guards, helping students cross busy streets.

The Apex Town Council is set to adopt a $38.9 million proposed spending plan on June 17. The budget could include funds for the additional guard.

A crossing guard would improve safety, Carver said.

“There have been several occasions where I’ve had to physically yank my daughter back because a car has come too close,” she said. “A crossing guard is someone acting in an official capacity. (Drivers) will know they are being watched. It’ll open people’s eyes.”

The crosswalk doesn’t have horizontal lines like some other high-visibility school-zone crosswalks. Instead, there are two narrow strips of white paint that can be easily missed by drivers.

“People are flying through, not aware at all of their speed,” said Jennifer Hamilton, who walks two of her children to the school regularly. “They come barreling through that intersection without paying attention.”

“We’ve had times when a car has almost hit one of our kids,” said her husband, Jarret Hamilton.

Nanette Lavery, the principal at Olive Chapel Elementary, said the school’s traffic woes got worse in 2012, when the school system had major transportation issues that led to late buses and missed bus stops.

In response, many parents started driving their kids to school and haven’t switched back to using the bus, Lavery said. That means more vehicles in the carpool lane, and more cars on the road.

A crossing guard could help encourage more parents to walk their children to school or allow their children to walk on their own, Lavery said.

Erin Marcum walks or bikes with her son to school because it’s less than a mile from her home. She said she worries about the safety of the intersection and wouldn’t let her second-grader cross the road alone.

“It’s a very busy corner,” she said. “Not everyone obeys the signals or stops. There was almost an accident there earlier this week when a driver ran a red light and two other cars were trying to turn. I think if there was a person here to have an eye on things, it would be safer.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews 

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