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School Crossing Guard limitations

Original post made by Lynn Drake on Sep 13, 2007

As a parent that lives across the street from Palo Verde Elementary, I see every school morning that the cross walk in front of our school is a dangerous for kids to cross. This is right where parents pull in and there is currently no crossing guard for kids to cross. Parents are in a hurry with their cars, and kids are all over the place with bicycles, scooters, and on foot.

Sergeant Herrera from the Palo Alto police department is in charge of the crossing guards. When I asked him whether we can get a crossing guard here, he says it doesn't meet the criteria that the schools and city have set for adding a crossing guard (not enough kids cross the street here to meet the criteria).

Let me say that the Sergeant Herrera and his crew have done a fantastic job of responsiveness and and getting traffic under control in the first couple of weeks of school. I can see that he needs a bigger budget since his resources are clearly constrained such that he can't even add a guard at a cross walk that is clearly a safety hazard.

This is a request to the city council to beef up the budget for traffic and crossing guards. At the very least, every first intersection around a school should be covered with guards so that parents can have their kids walk to school - not driven. The guards and occasional police patrol makes a huge difference and I thank you for providing that. We can do more to make our city "walkable" and adding guards goes a long way towards making that happen.

Comments (22)

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:55 am

Years ago at Duveneck (they may still do this, I don't have a child there anymore) the principal, teachers with classrooms closest to the drop off point and aides took turns standing outside at the drop off point. It made a big difference in the drivers and the student's behavior. While it not the ideal in the long run, it may help in the short run (and took only about 10 minutes or so)


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:17 am

The principal, or one of the teachers, is outside the school each morning. I walk to school with my child and on the occasions I drive, I get there very early. What I do see is many parents doing things which should not happen.

1. Many parents drop their kids (even very young ones) off on the wrong side of the road and expect them to cross by themselves.

2. Visibility is often very poor due to cars (or trucks) parked both sides of the road making it difficult to cross at the cross walk.

3. Many choose to walk to school on the opposite side of the street from the school then cross at the school crosswalk. They could cross at either Greer or Loma Verde and then walk the rest of the way on the school side of the street. This causes a secondary problem. From Loma Verde, students then have to cross Ames before reaching school. This is also a very dangerous intersection and some parents choose not to have to have their kids cross this.

Either way, it is a lose/lose situation.

If even one of the big yellow bollards that are at other school crosswalks would help (like the one at the Paly entrance on Churchill).


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:37 am

I agree with Lynn's request to beef up the crossing guards. For a district that doesn't provide school buses, requesting adequate crossing guard coverage is a pretty humble request.

As far as having an "every first intersection around a school" requirement, leave this to each school's discretion. Escondido, for example, has fairly safe "first intersections" at the corners of Stanford-Escondido and Stanford-Hanover. The trouble spot is crossing El Camino at Stanford. A guard wasn't put at this intersection until about 2 years ago. (!) School foot & bike traffic has noticeably increased with the guard. (Although it's still a crazy intersection with the way it's designed - even the presence of a guard doesn't calm some drivers' habits, nor can a single guard handle all 6 pedestrian segments. But that's a different discussion.)

PV Parent, it's a good idea, but don't expect that a big crosswalk sign like the one on Churchill will have much impact. There've been several sarcastic and frustrated TS threads about that crosswalk. Drivers do what they want – signs be damned.


Posted by Anamika, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Specifically for Palo Verde - The intersection of Louis and Ames is a major hazard in the morning. Residents park cars along Louis .. which hampers visibility (Not saying that residents should not park the cars on the street )

Just wondering if parents could organize a guard near this intersection. I have seen Mr. Goddard near the school drop off area .. but he cannot possibly man the crosswalk at the same time.

Can PiE or PTA organize this effort and have a parent volunteer near the crosswalk and the Ames intersection?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Every school should have drop off lanes.


Posted by Ex PV parent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2007 at 8:56 pm


1) There was a time at Palo Verde when there was a squad of 5th grade student volunteers who were trained to be crossing guards before and after school at the very crosswalk that Lynn mentions. It worked well. I don't know why that program was eliminated. Similarly a squad of volunteer parents could do the job.

2) Walter, there is a drop off lane at PV. Unfortunately, there are many more cars lined up to drop off their kids than there is room in the drop-off lane, and the queue of car sits smack across that cross-walk.

3) Many parents that drop off/pick up their kids at Palo Verde are consciencious drivers. Unfortunately, there is a significant number of them who are in a hurry, speed, break the driving rules are seem pretty rude. Those parents themselves are the biggest hazard to the school children of Palo Verde.


Posted by Pack 'em in, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:09 pm

This is just another one of the miriad ill-affects of overcrowding our schools. The problem is bigger than class size & staggered lunches.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:14 am

I guess I should have said adequate drop off lanes.


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:26 pm

My eldest child was the first 5th grade class not to use 5th grade students as crossing guards. The decision was made because it was deemed to dangerous by parents, staff and also the police (I believe) for 10 year olds to stand in the street to stop cars. It was at about the same time that the school was rapidly growing in numbers and the number of kids arriving at school by car was increasing.

I still have a child at Palo Verde, and I am still against using the 5th graders to stop traffic.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2007 at 7:51 pm

In the 30s and 40s when I was a traffic boy, there had never been a fatality at an intersection controlled by a traffic boy.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2007 at 9:31 pm

We had fifth and sixth-grade traffic guards when I was in school--until one of them was killed at another school. Lot more cars than there were 60 years ago. (Traffic at school was a non-issue, we were all walking--and for a lot of kids it was well over a mile, amazing when I think of it. We just all did it.)

So, much as I like kids having that kind of responsibility, there are a lot of interchanges around here where I wouldn't want to see kids on duty. I hate seeing the way people drive around the schools--distracted, hunting for parking spaces, not always seeing kids beneath the high fronts of their Odysseys . . . it's an accident waiting to happen.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2007 at 6:13 am

So the need to provide drop off lanes designed to handle the load safely.


Posted by Lynn Drake, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2007 at 9:36 am

In my mind, the crossing guards work and having them hired and trained through the Palo Alto Police Deparment is the best situation. Sgt. Herrera is basically maxed out his crossing guards. I believe he has 27 guards for 12 elementary, 3 middle, and 2 high school. He says he has also forced to cut back his police staff on traffic duty this year too. With more kids attending PAUSD schools than last year (and the year before), it seems like we should be increasing his budget.

Perhaps through the City, PTAs and PIE (Partners in Education), we can increase the funding?? This is an election year so let your candidates know you care about this issue.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2007 at 11:34 am

There is a drop-off lane at Ohlone, but a lot of people don't use it. It's short because the front of the school is short, so it always backs up onto Amarillo and people park instead . . .

Well, Ohlone's a commuter school, but wasn't designed to be one. I think it's parking lot is even smaller than Palo Verde's. I've started walking a lot, even though it's kind of an unpleasant haul (it's never fun to cross Oregon Expressway).

Ideally, I'd like . . . some school buses and some sort of pedestrian bike bridge over Oregon.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2007 at 2:53 pm

The unloading and the queue for unloading all needs to be on school property.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

The idea of having selected 5th graders do the traditional cross-guard duty seems great. If people think that is dangerous - well, their kid definitely should not be one of the guards, then. But a well-chosen, trained 5th grader is way better than what PV apparently has now, which is nothing. Plus a couple 5th graders get a taste of public responsibilty.

And if the particular intersection is too dangerous, busy, etc. - well, don't use the kids there.

Good simple solution to a simple problem.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2007 at 3:40 pm

A lot of private schools and some camps have a designated drop off queue. Have you ever been to St Joseph's at pick-up? Had a kid in the summer school program? The parents wait in a line in their cars and pull to the front to pick up their students. In the morning, the the students are only dropped there and no where else.

Could PV have a couple staff members "receive" the kids and inform the parents that dropping the kids elsewhere on a large portion of the street is not allowed. It could at least reduce the level of chaos!


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Just got back from the 2.50 pick up and it was pretty bad. We were one of the first to leave and as we were walking we had to cross at the cross walk. The tailback of cars queueing to get to the pick up area was so bad that we couldn't see or be seen. As we got to the middle a car was coming on the wrong side probably travelling through and nearly didn't see us. If I hadn't been as watchful as I was, a small child could easily have been hit. The same could have been said if a car was coming the right way on that side of the road. The tailback was big suv/minivan type vehicles and they were so close to the crosswalk that pedestrians couldn't be seen.

The police were outside the school this morning, but it wasn't too bad, probably because early/late reading started today so the schedule is staggered. But, the after school pickup was bad.


Posted by not a magic fix, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2007 at 1:37 am

So the problem is too many cars in front of the school at pickup time. And lots of the cars are parked across the street from the school, or blocking visibility for the crosswalk. Cars driven by parents or caregivers.

What if every family who lived within a 15 minute walk of the school walked or biked (parents and kids) to the school? What if those who were not able to walk or bike every day found a neighbor to carpool with? Maybe every day isn't feasible. But how about two or three times a week? This would make a huge difference to the backup that PV Parent was describing.

What if parents who "had" to drive parked a block away (legally and without u-turns) to the north and south __where crossing guards are ALREADY in place__ and walked their kids the rest of the way?

What if the school district actually owned up to the mess that it created by closing all those neighborhood schools and eliminating the school buses just as the school population started to increase (turning point was 1987-88, as I recall)? Parents from the pre-Prop-13 era tell me that it didn't occur to them to drive their children to school -- everybody walked, biked or took the bus.

What if we could use the $350,000 per year that is now going toward adult crossing guards who safeguard the crossing of a few dozen kids for 20 minutes each morning and afternoon, and could use it toward making our streets safer and more pedestrian and bike friendly -- solutions that would be in place 24/7?

The point of these questions is to suggest that before demanding that the city find the money for yet another crossing guard on Louis Road to serve the needs of Palo Verde, maybe the school district and the parents should do some serious thinking about the choices that they have made that are contributing to the mess in front of their school. We're all worried about childhood obesity, global warming, air pollution and the cost of gas. So why not consider solutions that could reduce the real safety problem -- too many cars transporting children who could be walking, biking or carpooling to school?


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2007 at 5:44 am

If the problem is too many people driving and driving badly, we have a solution on-hand for that. How about PA Police rotate among the schools ticketing parents for illegal turns, parking, speeding, failure to yield, etc. For the parents who complain - tough luck. They would also change their behavior, this problem would go away, and our streets would be safer for everybody (including the complainers and their kids). The PA Police actually do this kind of enforcement for kids for jaywalking, bike helmets, etc. Why not the cars too?

If the root cause is bad behavior (cars driving hazardously), then we should address that directly rather than try to accomodate it.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 25, 2007 at 9:32 am

Yes, I agree with Terry, I support requesting the police to set up a plan. A system of rotating police cars from time to time to the entrances of each of our schools at drop off/pick up times would really help! They will say this is done to some extent, true, but if people KNEW this was a steady system it might help stem aggressive driving that puts our students at risk.

The first concern is student safety, then other driver misdeeds of which there are many including speeding, other violations...plus at Paly there is the extreme problem of drivers exiting left out of Town & Country often endangering all of us with their wild maneuvers when they don't have the right of way.


Posted by Jessica, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Yes, when I was in fifth grade in 1961 it was a very very big deal to be part of the crossing guard group at the crosswalk in front of Palo Verde. But that was at a time when people took it for granted that you stopped for a kid in a Sam Browne belt with a stop sign on a pole.

Teachers and volunteer parents supervised and trained us, but they weren't out there with us at the crosswalk.


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