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Sheriff’s office seeks to fill one remaining crossing guard position

Posted: November 22, 2017 - 2:25am
James Stokes was hired on in August and is stationed at the entrance of Harlem Middle School.
James Stokes was hired on in August and is stationed at the entrance of Harlem Middle School.

After Columbia County board of commissioners OK'd a request from the sheriff's office to add new crossing guard positions in August, all but one position is filled.

Capt. Andy Shedd of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office confirmed a grand total of 17 crossing guards employed as of Aug. 7, an increase from 12 crossing guards.

Commissioners OK'd to add five additional crossing guards beginning in August, as well as a raise from $10 an hour to $15.20 an hour beginning July 1 after a request from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. Now, only one crossing guard position - a job geared toward directing traffic around Stevens Creek Elementary School - remains open.

Shedd said the sheriff's office looked at several elements to determine the schools in Columbia County that needed crossing guards. Those elements, Shedd said, are the determination if children crossed specific streets and traffic volume.

"We have a lot of schools on two-lane roadways, where parents come in, drop their kid off, and then they have a hard time getting out of the schools getting back on the main roads," Shedd said. "We really looked at those dynamics and made the decision where to best place the crossing guards."

Before the new hires were stationed, Shedd said the Columbia County Sheriff's Office trained each individual, including lessons on hand and traffic signals. And, to ensure the crossing guards have top-notch gear, the sheriff's office invested in flashing red lights that attach to their vests for better visibility for oncoming motorists.

Additionally, on the very first day of school, Shedd said deputies were training best practices to newbie crossing guards as motorists were en route to schools.

Training best practices to new hires, though, is only half the battle, as Shedd said it is challenging to find qualified candidates for the simple fact the crossing guard schedule is peculiar.

"They have to be there in the morning, and then they have a long break," he said. "Let's say it's an elementary school and they get there about 7:50 a.m., and they are only there until about 8:30 in the morning. After that they have a long pause, and then they can go out and do whatever they want. But they have to be back at 3:30 p.m., when the elementary school lets out. The schedule can be a challenge to find applicants who want to work that kind of schedule."

While it is a challenge to find applicants for crossing guard positions, it is very important for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to hire these individuals.

Historically, Shedd said the Columbia County Sheriff's Office coordinated deputies to handle school zone traffic control. With the addition of crossing guards directing school-zone traffic, these deputies are now freed up to take care of other calls.

One Richmond County native is assisting law enforcement in tackling other calls. James Stokes -a crossing guard for Harlem Middle School - is among the new hires. Stokes, who is directing traffic at 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., said his new experience as a crossing guard has been very gratifying.

"I love it," Stokes said. "I'm staying very visible out there so I can alleviate the traffic coming thru. It's been great. I love it. I'm even alleviating traffic in the school parking lot. It's just been wonderful."

On any given school day, folks can find Stokes decked out in a visible orange vest, and on his person is multiple flashlights. Stokes, of course, said he uses this equipment to ensure the safety of people.

"My purpose is to keep people safe; keep our children safe," Stokes said. "That's one thing I'm about; I'm about safety. When I am there, that is my crosswalk. I keep motorists safe. I work my area to keep people free from accidents, and so far so good."

Candidates interested in applying for the crossing guard position for Stevens Creek Elementary School can email their resumes to ashedd@columbiacountyso.org.

 

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