Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TOP STORY >> JNP recruiting crossing guards

Leader staff writer

Kids and cars don’t mix, so over the weekend, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District put the word out that they need volunteers to don a vest and grab a sign.

Phyllis Stewart, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District chief of staff, said, “We do need crossing guards for the morning and afternoon shifts.”

Former Jacksonville Mayor James Reid heard the call and decided to sign up.

Besides, his pride in the city and the new school district, Reid said he has personal reasons for volunteering. His wife, Mary Reid, now deceased, taught at Jacksonville Elementary School, then under the Pulaski County Special School District, for years.

“I saw the newspaper ad and wanted to help,” he said.

Stewart said, “Anyone can volunteer. A retired person, a parent, anyone who wants to make a difference.”

“Crossing guards don’t receive special training but need to be brave enough to stop traffic and direct kids for about 30 minutes each shift…Crossing guards need to genuinely care about the kids,” Stewart said.

In addition, she said, “It gives our students a connection to the community,” and it plants the seeds of the importance of volunteerism at a young age.

Crossing guards are sorely needed at the district’s six elementary schools, especially at nearby busy intersections, Stewart said.

The elementary schools include Bayou Meto, Dupree, Pinewood, Taylor and Tolleson elementary schools. At Arnold Drive Elementary, the Air Force base handles crossing guard duties, Stewart said.

Ideally, she said they would like to have about 20 crossing guards. At least, two for each school, as well as a couple extra people so that principals could rotate shifts.

She said volunteers can choose the time and school where they want to work.

“The kids are our No. 1 priority,” and currently, most of the guard positions are being handled by school staff, Stewart said.

Stewart said in past years, Jacksonville police officers served as crossing guards and if they don’t get enough volunteers this school year, then the district will have to hire off-duty police officers.

“People have been willing to step up and help the district. We have had overwhelming support from the community,” and that’s making a difference as the new district tries to get on its feet, Stewart said.

Reid said his volunteering as a crossing guard makes him feel good and helps ensure the school district’s long-term success.

The job doesn’t pay but Stewart said, “Volunteers get a big thank you from the district.”

For more information, or to volunteer for a crossing guard position, call the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District at 501-241-2080.