Prince George’s hiring crossing guards to help address shortage -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected at 2:09 p.m. Sept. 20, 2012. An explanation is at the end of the story.

When Vietra Trinidad of Upper Marlboro drives her son to Divine Peace Lutheran Church School in Largo each morning, on Md. 202 and Campus Way, she sees lots of children darting across the street to get to school.

“I worry about hitting one of them,” she said, adding she would welcome having a crossing guard at the site. “It’s a safety issue.”

Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw told crossing guards at the department’s Crossing Guard Unit Back-to-School Night earlier this month that the department has authorized 17 new positions to address the shortage of crossing guards in the county.

The county employs 124 crossing guards, although 152 would be ideal, said Capt. Irene Huskens, commander of the county police department’s Community Services Division.

“It’s not nearly enough,” Magaw said. “But hopefully, by January, we hope to have more people trained and on the street.”

But even with those new hires a shortage still will exist, especially in Bowie, Hyattsville and Laurel, said Catherine Tayman, a county crossing guard supervisor.

“There is a high attrition rate,” Tayman said. “A lot of guards are starting to retire.”

The lack of crossing guards makes it hard to cover all of the necessary sites and could create a safety problem, Tayman said.

Statistics from the police department regarding children who are in pedestrian accidents going to or coming from school were not available.

Pfc. Edward Martin, a spokesman for the police department, said $16,000 per guard has been allotted for the additional staff.

Between $12,000 and $13,000 would go toward compensation, while the remainder would pay fringe costs, such as benefits, said Scott Peterson, spokesman for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

Prince George’s residents said more crossing guards are an immediate need.

“We need them now,” said Jennifer Lowery-Bell, a community activist in Upper Marlboro. “Our children are sacred. The main purpose of the crossing guards is to keep the children safe, and if you don’t have enough crossing guards, it’s a poor judgment call. They need to get those crossing guards out now. We need no delays.”

Protecting students requires the partnership of all parties, said Sgt. Johnnathan Wright, of the Community Services Division.

“If we do a survey and we deem that there is a need and we don’t have a crossing guard available, we will reach out to the police or local municipalities to cover the area,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s about the safety of the children.”

Crossing guards get paid about $12 per hour starting out, for working four-hour shifts, either in the morning or when school lets out, and receive full-time benefits, Tayman said.

“It’s the best part-time job I can think of,” she said.

Tayman said it has not been hard to find people who are interested in becoming crossing guards. She receives a couple of calls per week from people looking to apply, she said.

Tayman said people interested in applying to become crossing guards should go to the county’s website, www.princegeorgescountymd.gov, and look under employment opportunities.

bmoszkowicz@gazette.net

Correction: The initial story included incorrect information provided by the Prince George’s County Police Department regarding how to apply for a crossing guard position. Applicants must apply online at the county’s website, www.princegeorgescountymd.gov.