Village resident Liz Pickett, a mother of four with one child now entering the middle school, has brought her concerns to the Board of Education.
“That intersection is oddly configurated and is even difficult for adults to cross safely,” she said. “Yet we’re expecting our 10 and 11-year-old children, who may never have crossed Main Street before, to take that risk in order to get to school.”
Village Trustee Robert Feldman, also a resident of Manheim, said he was very sympathetic to the concerns of parents. “There was a crossing guard several years ago, and I really do not remember who was in charge of hiring or paying for them, but it was a part-time job that helped ensure our children crossed that intersection safely.”
According to Feldman, who crosses that intersection every day, “it’s incredibly dangerous, people blow right through the lights or crosswalks without concern … I think it would be great to have a crossing guard, who could also help to educate our children as to when and how to cross the street safely.”
Feldman did note that one positive thing about that particular intersection is that it was a “four-way stop when people are signaled to cross.” This is “unusual but was installed years ago when we had two deaf children on our road who walked to the middle school.”
In an effort to put a crossing guard into place before the first day of school, Superintendent Maria Rice wrote a letter to village Mayor Terry Dungan thanking him for his “recent communication” with the superintendent regarding the need for a crossing guard.
She then went on to write: “As you are aware, the traffic patterns at this intersection are of concern to the school district because they pose a safety hazard for our middle school children who must navigate this dangerous thoroughfare each day on their way to and from school.”
Rice said that it was her understanding that “historically the duties of a crossing guard at this location were assigned to the person who checks the parking meters,” and that this service, for unknown reasons, was “discontinued sometime in the recent past.”
She urged the mayor and Village Board to move swiftly in considering the district’s request as “remediation of this dangerous situation is crucial to the safety and well being of our children,” asking the Village Board to “do whatever is necessary to obtain the services of a crossing guard.” Ideally, the schools would like a guard present during the hours of 7:20 to 8 a.m. and then again from 2:30 to 3 p.m.
Feldman said that in his estimation “this is a very busy intersection and I understand the concerns raised by parents.” He also said that during the time he has served on the Village Board that he does not “recall the parking enforcement officer also working as a crossing guard.”
Feldman said that in his recollection, the crossing guard “was a part-time job and was not done by the parking enforcement officer to the best of my knowledge.”
That said, Feldman is glad the issue is on their upcoming agenda as he “supports the idea of a crossing guard, the question now is who does it and who pays for it? Both of which I don’t think are insurmountable questions to come to a conclusion on. It won’t be a lot of money, but it will cost money.”
“I don’t know who is ultimately responsible for hiring and paying for a crossing guard, but I do know that we pay a lot of money in taxes to the village and the school district,” said Pickett. “And I believe that if our children are being required to walk to school because they live within a certain distance, then at the very least, we should have a crossing guard to ensure their safety. Every other district does it. Where I grew up in New Jersey there were crossing guards at every intersection, not just the dangerous ones. And there have already been very bad accidents here.”
School Board President Don Kerr said that the school board “has never discussed this issue to my memory in the past seven years, since crossing guards were under the authority of New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) and Village of New Paltz. The last time there was a crossing guard was six years ago, during the one-year tenure of Interim Superintendent Ed Rhine. At that time, the crossing guard was managed by the NPPD as a public safety issue. I do not believe that the BOE was part of that discussion.”
Speaking on behalf of himself, Kerr said that he “personally strung yellow ropes from the corner of Main Street to the parking lot entrance on Manheim at the middle school site five years ago. The ropes cut down on jaywalking, but did become an eyesore.” And regardless of any improvements made to the intersection to make it safer, it’s not to the “point where risk is eliminated. It would still be good to have a guard there.”
The mayor said this issue was slated for their next meeting on Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m., at Village Hall.