A group of students filed out of Ontario Elementary School on Thursday, their large backpacks bouncing behind them while they excitedly scurried down the sidewalk.
At the intersection of Fifth and Ontario streets, speedy cars zipped by, some paying little or no attention to the group of oncoming children.It surely would have been a difficult, dangerous task for them to cross the road on their own.
Luckily, crossing guard Allen Lingenfelter was well-equipped to guide them all across safely — even a young adult walking on the opposite side of the street.
“I cross everyone, even the big kids,” Lingenfelter joked with them, outstretching his red “stop” flag as he stood in the road. His bright orange safety vest reflected the afternoon sun.
Want to be a crossing guard?
Sandusky Schools is still looking for more full-time crossing guards to work this school year. Call 419-984-1015 for more information.
As congested school-area traffic returns to city streets, it’s more important than ever for drivers to act cautiously and adhere to crossing guards, said Lingenfelter, a seven-year guard.
“I’ve seen a few close calls in my time,” he said. “We’re here for the safety of the kids. Rain or shine, windy or cold, we’ll always be there.”
Sandusky Schools employs crossing guards at nine different intersections on school days.
The guards are paid $10 an hour and typically work one to two hours per day, costing the district a little more than $38,000 total in the past school year, treasurer Kevin Robertson said. David Danhoff, the district’s chief of staff and transformation officer, oversees the program.
The district strategically places guards in high-traffic areas near its schools to protect students walking home or to a bus stop, Danhoff said. To him, their job goes well beyond simply ushering them across the road.
“We’re always looking for people who are nurturing caregivers,” Danhoff said. “We’re very appreciative of their efforts, the kindness they show to kids and the guidance they give them as they grow up. These people are very caring and take great pride in what they do.”
Lingenfelter appears to embody the twofold mission of the ideal Sandusky Schools crossing guard.
On Thursday, he not only shielded students from heavy traffic, but also made them smile when he asked how their day was going or cracked a silly joke. When one boy seemed a little too timid to cross, he held his hand to guide him along the way.
Lingenfelter’s typical intersection while working as a full-time crossing guard was at Huron Avenue and Elm Street, near CVS Pharmacy, where he watched many students grow up as they progressed from kindergarten to sixth grade. He now fills in part-time at different locations.
“A lot of the little ones aren’t so little anymore,” Lingenfelter laughed. “But they all still know me. It’s nice to be something positive for them at the start and end of their day.”
Crossing guards not only provide a friendly face, but also help law enforcement respond quickly to potential hazards, Sandusky police Chief John Orzech said.
“They’re eyes and ears out there for us if there is a safety issue,” Orzech said. “If there are unsafe situations we’ll target our patrols around the issues they tell us about. They help create a safe environment for the kids that’s beyond just crossing the road.”