Thunder Mountain parent pleads for crossing guard

Thunder Mountain Elementary School students wait for a truck to stop before crossing F 1/2 Road at Allegheny Drive several blocks east of the school.

After months of pleading for a crossing guard near Thunder Mountain Elementary School, parent Joee Stephan was pleased to see a guard ushering student walkers across F 1/2 Road this fall west of the school at 30 1/2 Road.

Down the street, though, is an unmanned crosswalk at
F 1/2 and 31 roads. An incident Monday morning that involved a five-year-old girl getting hit by a vehicle near that intersection underscored the need for a crossing guard east of the school as well, Stephan said. But even after going through crossing guard training and offering to volunteer herself for crossing guard duty east of the school and contacting the school’s Parent-Teacher Association and principal, Mesa County’s traffic and sheriff’s departments and School District 51, Stephan said nothing has changed.

“I don’t want to blame anyone, I just want a crossing guard on the freaking street,” she said.

Personnel at Thunder Mountain, where Stephan walks her fourth-grader and pre-schooler every day, told her the district can only place paid crossing guards between school zone signs. School zones are generally on streets in front of schools and extend up to 300 feet past school property lines on either side.

District 51 Safety and Transportation Director Tim Leon said most of the district’s 22 crossing guards are paid employees in order to ensure someone is at each assigned cross walk for a half hour before and after school at 16 elementary schools, and to cut down on the “liabilities” involved with including volunteers. He confirmed the district confines guards to areas within school zones because vehicles are supposed to slow down in those areas, adding the district “has no say” in placing crossing guards outside those zones.

Thunder Mountain has a crossing guard within its school zone west of the school and in the school’s parking lot, Leon said, but not east of the school because the nearest crosswalk is past school zone boundaries. Leon said the district would be breaking the law if it posted a crossing guard at a spot east of the school where there is no crosswalk.

Mesa County is responsible for installing crosswalks and has jurisdiction over the stretch of F 1/2 Road east of the school zone, he said.

“When people start directing traffic outside school zones, they have to discuss it with those entities” that are responsible for those areas, Leon said.

Mesa County spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said the county’s traffic department has been in contact with the school district and Thunder Mountain Elementary staff to discuss solutions for making walking routes to the school safer.

The county in recent years has added a crosswalk in the area, expanded the school zone, installed extra school zone signs and painted an extra wide stripe to help drivers distinguish between the road and the shoulder.

Peterson said the county has no crossing guard program of its own but may consider the idea, even if just in one location.

“I’m sure if the district wanted to discuss that with the county, our traffic supervisor would be willing to have that conversation,” she said.

Leon said he would support the county or another entity placing a crossing guard, volunteer or otherwise, east of Thunder Mountain. He said he would even supply a vest and stop sign for that person.

Meanwhile, Stephan is writing letters to and calling county traffic officials, school leaders and elected officials. She started a Facebook page called Parents for Student Safety and hopes to raise awareness about traffic safety around the district. Stephan said more children are walking district-wide after District 51 busing boundaries changed this fall and she sees kids and drivers making mistakes every day when she walks with her children to and from school.

“It’s not just us, it’s the whole valley,” she said. “The louder we speak, the more the district has to act on this.”


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