Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

School crossing guards would work shorter shifts under Largo's budget proposal

RECOMMENDED READING


LARGO — Every school year the retirees in neon vests and yellow gloves shepherd hundreds of students across the street each day. They will still be there next school year, even if the City Commission approves a proposed 10 percent cut to the crossing guard budget.

But parents of children who walk to school might want to make sure their children aren't running late in the morning or dawdling after school.

The $36,000 cut to the crossing guard budget is part of the Largo Police Department's attempt to help the city reach its budget-cutting goal without having to cut police officers. Sgt. George Edmiston, who oversees the crossing guard program, said he hopes to achieve the cut by shortening some crossing guard shifts.

Every school day, 37 crossing guards are on duty at 28 posts across the city. Edmiston tries to work it so guards are there 45 minutes before the morning bell and 15 minutes after, and 10 minutes before the afternoon bell and 50 minutes after. He may trim some of those shifts at several posts next year, but he won't know where until the 2012-13 school year starts and he gets updated numbers about how many kids are crossing at each post.

"The goal is to not shut any posts down," Edmiston said. "We probably won't be available for the early birds or the stragglers, though."

Chief John Carroll agrees the cuts shouldn't affect student safety. But he wonders if the structure of the crossing guard program in Pinellas County — each of the municipalities and the Sheriff's Office are responsible for guards, not the school district — is inefficient.

"They do a great job," Carroll said of Largo's crossing guards. "I'm just not convinced this should be the city of Largo's responsibility."

Largo's crossing guards get paid between $11 and $14 per hour. The program cost the city $350,000 this fiscal year. The Clearwater Police Department pays its 72 guards $10 per hour. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's 129 guards earn $24 per day. In St. Petersburg, the department of engineering and capital improvements oversees the city's 75 crossing guards, who make between $7 and $9 per hour.

In each of those jurisdictions, someone must do what Largo's Edmiston does: use information about where students live in relation to their school, traffic data and student head counts by crossing guards to determine which streets need guards.

While Carroll would like to see someone spearhead a countywide approach, Michael Bessette, the school district's associate superintendent, says he's never heard a peep about taking guard responsibilities away from the cities.

"I've never had a municipality want to give up jurisdiction," said Bessette. "I suppose it's something that could be looked at."

While Edmiston doesn't want to close a crossing guard post, he didn't rule it out. Some posts are swarmed by scores of kids every morning, but some get just a handful. The guard at Cambridge Drive and Highland Avenue counted just one child in the morning and two in the afternoon the last time Largo had a head count. There is a new charter school opening not far from there this fall, though, so Edmiston will wait for the first head count after school opens to make any decisions.

In the event he does decide to close a post, Largo police will notify the school district and keep the post open for two weeks so word can circulate.

Mayor Pat Gerard trusts Carroll when he says the crossing guard program can absorb the cuts.

"The chief has told us that it's doable, and I trust that he wouldn't endanger little children," Gerard said.

City commissioners won't get the same answer, though, if they ask for more cuts in the program next year.

"After this year, we've done all the trimming we can," Edmiston said. "Then it would probably become a safety issue."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 9 hours ago
SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

When Ryan Cleckner was an Army Ranger sniper in Afghanistan, he had as many as nine rifles he would use in different situations. But whenever a mission would evolve quickly, he would have to choose which ones to lug onto a helicopter. Even narrowing ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.A 17-1 run late in the first half helped the Bulls to a 75-52 win Wednesday before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,080. USF (3-2) he...
Updated: 10 hours ago
From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

 
Updated: 12 hours ago
Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

TAMPA — The Bucs have some positive momentum with back-to-back wins, but DT Gerald McCoy said it’s too soon to say his 4-6 team has turned a corner."We haven’t turned a corner yet," McCoy said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. "It’s ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Associated PressSome smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.Store owners are going well beyond the usual holiday dec...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Nov. 22, midday:76 001 3688e_SRit36220Wed., Nov. 22, evening:18 535 9156e_SRit57364LottoWed., Nov....
Updated: 12 hours ago

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17