Here in Winnipeg, school buses are provided to children residing more than one kilometer from their school. For students who are walking to school, the School Division provides trained patrols to assist with students crossing at major intersections and those within the vicinity of the school.
A week after school started this Fall, the vice principal at my youngest son’s school sent a letter home to parents.
“Every year at our school, we work hard to make sure that we have competent and reliable street patrols in place in order to ensure your child’s safety to and from school. Street patrols are typically grades 5 to 6 students who volunteer their time in helping children cross the street before and after school. They are a responsible group who dedicate countless hours, in all kinds of weather conditions.
As you may be aware, some of the walking routes to school are busier than others. While our school patrols do a wonderful job, it would add extra security if there were an adult at some of these posts.”
Then she went on to refer to the particular posts just around the corner from our home. Actually, it’s just four houses away.
I read the letter as if it was addressed to me. I should be the one to volunteer for this job. I had wanted to do some volunteer work for the school for quite some time now. I still enjoy working at home. I like the flexibility of time it offers, I like that we don’t have to rush in the morning, and I like it that I am home when the kids come back from school. But there are times when it gets boring and lonely and that’s when I would want to do something different, something exciting. This is one of the reasons I started my daily walks.
How many times had I wanted to go with my kids on their field trips, or once in a while help out during lunch, but that would mean that I’d miss time from work. And I didn’t want a volunteer work that would interfere with my regular paying job. This patrol duty would only require 15 minutes of my time in the morning and another 15 minutes in the afternoon. So I thought that this was the perfect volunteer job for me.
I immediately called the school and I was asked to attend the meeting. By the way, my sister who lives just next door also volunteered. And did I also mention that my 11-year old niece has been patrolling for two years now?
The meeting was held at the school library and was attended by the student volunteers, both old and new, the adult volunteers (me and sis), and the teacher patrol supervisor. Constable Dan from the Winnipeg Police Department was there to brief us and review the school patrol’s job.
Members of the school patrol are responsible for:
1. Controlling, directing and instructing students in safely crossing the streets and highways at or near our school, and in safely getting on and off the school bus.
2. Helping teachers, parents and police in instructing school children about safe practices on streets and highways at all times and in all places.
Constable Dan stressed that our job is to make sure the children in our care can cross the road safely and it is NOT our duty to stop traffic. So we don’t even try. That is the police officer’s job.
Following these rules will help us do our job well:
1. Report promptly at the times set out by our supervisors.
2. Stay on duty until the bell rings, or until the patrol captain gives us the signal to leave.
3. If we can’t go on duty, tell our captain in advance. That way, a spare patrol member will be on our post while we’re away.
We were given bright orange vests and flags. The vest helps identify me as a school patrol member and it also makes me stand out so drivers can see me better. The flag is an extension of my arm, helping make my signals clearer to traffic.
MY PATROL POST
I started my volunteer work the next day after the meeting. I put into practice what I have learned the day before. I arrived at my post well ahead of the time of my shift. And I took my position one step back from the edge of the curb. I stood at ease with my hands behind my back.
When the first bunch of children came, I extended my arms in a 45-degree angle in the front of them. Then I checked all directions for oncoming traffic. When all vehicles have stopped, I moved out one step from the curb facing the traffic, extended my flag arm at a 90-degree angle, and waved by curbside arm behind me to motion the children to cross the street.
My first day on the job was a little intimidating. After all, I was putting myself out there in the street. But drivers aren’t given licenses unless they know the rules of the road and they know that they should stop when they see the flags of the patrols up and when they see children crossing. But there are also drivers who are careless and impatient especially during the rush hour and I have to make sure that they will stop at the crosswalk before I let the children cross the street, especially during the times when the roads are icy and slippery.
So far, I have been enjoying working at my post. The children and also some of the parents who walk with their children are friendly. Sometimes I would get a “Thank you” and I’d give them a “You’re welcome” back. A little “thank you,” although just said casually, goes a long way. I really feel that what I’m doing is appreciated.
And talk about being friendly, there’s this lady in a red jacket driving a beige car and she would usually give me a little honk and a wave and smile. At first I didn’t recognize her. After the second time, I realized that it was my son’s first grade teacher. So whenever I wasn’t busy crossing children and I see her waving at me while turning that intersection, I’d also wave back at her. Isn’t she sweet?
It’s really a good thing that we still have a mild weather, unusually mild actually. We should be knee-high deep in snow by now. But I can still see green grass. Yup, the snow you’ve seen in my pictures a few posts back have melted from our Spring-like temperatures and we were snow-less for a few weeks. It was only this past week when it snowed again and it looks like this one is here to stay for this season.
I know what lies ahead, bone-chilling temperatures of up to minus 30. So I don’t know how I will like it when we get there. Well, as Constable Dan has reminded us, we should be dressed appropriately for the weather at all times. If it’s raining, wear a raincoat. And in the winter, wear warm coats, toques, gloves and boots. We don’t want to be shivering and then pacing back and forth to keep ourselves warm in our posts when we have to help children cross the street.
Source: School Safety Patrol Handbook, Manitoba Public Insurance