Following an outpouring of support from the community for Bill O’Rourke, former crossing guard at the Baldwin & Locust corner, I’ve been working behind the scenes with city staff to discuss returning Bill to his location.
Bill was advised in the summer he was being relocated for operational reasons to another spot, but the times did not work with his schedule and he went on a waiting list. When residents heard he was being relocated, dozens contacted my office asking for him to be returned.
That’s my goal, and I’m working with city staff to that end. I also maintain regular communication with Bill, who is also one of my constituents.
I’ve met with our acting city manager (also the general manager of community services, which oversees the crossing guard program). He has advised that the city is willing to consider placing Bill back at his old corner should a vacancy at that spot become available.
Vacancies can arise for a number of reasons, including crossing guards moving to another part of the city, quitting for health or personal reasons, or other operational reasons. One of these reasons might be mileage – the city pays mileage for its crossing guards, so it makes sense to position guards closest to their residence.
At some time in the future should the Baldwin/Locust spot become vacant for operational or other reasons, the city would ask Bill if he is interested in returning to this location at that time.
I have also been discussing with staff the need to improve communication with crossing guards when they are relocated. Bill received a letter in the summer informing him of the relocation, but it merely included a location number rather than a geographic location. Further, the times were not listed, which vary depending on the school schedule.
He told me he received the letter July 29, and was told to reply by Aug. 1 – a holiday. It took two weeks due to holidays and staff illness to arrange a meeting to find out where the location was, and the times. This process leaves guards at the risk of having their spot filled before they can respond.
I’ve raised these concerns with staff and there is general agreement about improving communications, and working with guards potentially before the end of each school year to discuss locations for the fall.
My Take: Crossing guards provide more service than simply escorting children safely across the street. They often become a vital part of the community fabric, and from all the letters and calls I have received about Bill, it’s clear he was a cherished part of our local community. I will continue to follow this situation and will let you know when any changes are imminent. That may take some months, but I will update the community when there is any news.