WESTFIELD, NJ — With three weeks left before the start of the school year, a national firm the municipality hired to manage its crossing guards is reorganizing the local program that keeps children safe while walking to and from school.
On Tuesday night, municipal officials heard concerns about changes in the program now being run by All City Management Services, a national company the council has agreed to pay $609,496 to manage the town’s existing crossing guards under a program that officials said will free up police officers to do more critical work.
“Spots we haven’t been able to fill, we’ve had police officers covering posts instead of doing police work,” said Town Administrator Jim Gildea. “And that’s been a major safety issue for the town.” Under the contract approved by the council, payroll and management of the town’s crossing guards program were transferred to ACMS.
Under the new management, crossing guards are prohibited from directing traffic, something they previously were permitted to do.
Resident Greg Kasko, a former Westfield police officer, told the council this change could lead to traffic backups on Rahway Avenue and Grove Street, among other thoroughfares, near Edison Intermediate School.
Kasko proposed making the roads one-way streets during school opening and dismissal times near the school. “I’d like to ask if the town if the police department has considered make these roads one-ways?” he said.
A 14-year-old boy was hit by a car in front of Edison School in June of last year. In 2012, two children were hit by a car while a crossing guard was actively directing traffic in the area, police then told TAPinto Westfield.
Discussion of the new management for Westfield’s crossing guards came one day after an orientation during which ACMS briefed existing guards on the changes and give the crossing guards the option to apply to work for the national company, Patricia Pohl, vice president of operations for ACMS, told TAPinto on Wednesday.
“School crossing guards are not statutorily authorized to direct traffic,” Pohl said. “They are allowed and empowered to stop traffic and direct traffic in the process.”
What’s that mean for Westfield? Drivers must look both ways for traffic and not rely on a guard to give them the go-ahead after crossing students.
“We want to start the school year off by having drivers understand that at these locations where crossing guards are, drivers have the same responsibility they would have at any other intersection they approach,” Pohl said.
She said ACMS is working with the Westfield police to ensure proper traffic control measures are in place at crossing spots where guards previously directed traffic and in some cases is moving crossings to different intersections to ensure there is no need for guards to direct traffic.
ACMS is also seeking additional crossing guards for Westfield.
A post on Westfield’s municipal website says the company pays guards $18.50 per hour for working a brief shift in the morning and a brief shift in the afternoon. For more information, applicants are asked to call regional manager Shelby Schaffer at 717-650-7232.
The crossing guard program in Westfield comes as ACMS implements similar programs in both Wayne, located in Passaic County, and in Bound Brook, located in Somerset County, Pohl said.
The Village of Ridgewood hired ACMS in 2016, under a program slated to continue this year.
Ridgewood Police Chief Jacqueline Luthcke had only praise for the management company.
“I will briefly just say how much we love working with ACMS,” Luthcke told TAPinto Westfield. “They are a great group of people and have allowed me to better utilize my police officers during the critical (and busy) pickup and drop off times.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh