It’s been a busy fall for Richmond City Safe Routes to School! We have so many things to share! For example, we could share how well our International Walk to School Day events went, how awesome the Safe Routes to School National Conference was, a review of the film Motherload from the screening at the 17th St. Market, or our progress in advocating for Vision Zero and Complete Streets. However, it would be remiss of us if we didn’t share the news on our new pilot crossing guard program!

A dynamic duo of crossing guards at Linwood Holton are improving conditions for families who navigate Hermitage Ave. to get to school.

This fall we expanded our partnership with Richmond Public Schools in an effort to develop a pilot crossing guard program that would increase crossing guard coverage exponentially. Coverage not only increased with the new program, it also provides a familiar welcome for students and their families. The new crossing guard program recruits from faculty and staff already employed at each school. While we love all of our crossing guards, recruiting for this position has always been difficult, typically leaving several vacancies every school year.

In the spring of 2016, the Mary Munford PTA approached us about their concerns regarding the lack of crossing guard coverage at their school, and elementary schools across the city. We began to brainstorm, with several meetings that included the newly elected 1st District City Councilor, Andreas Addison, and School Board Representative, Liz Doerr. They helped facilitate meetings with folks at agencies across the city who could help make it come to fruition. The plan was to have the program moved from being managed by Richmond Police Department to Richmond Public Schools, so that we could have a more community-based program. The plan gained momentum under the leadership of Superintendent Kamras, as it relates to the Dreams4RPS initiative.

We recruited and trained crossing guards this fall, and our team hit the streets the first week of November. The feedback from students, families, and community members about adding over 30 new crossing guards across the city was pouring in within days. The support and structure that the presence of strategically place crossing guards was noticeable and welcome with PE teacher and Woodville Crossing Guard, Nicole Henke reporting that, “I’ve had so many parents say we should have been doing this and they are glad we are here on every corner.”

A student at Fairfield Court Elementary crosses Phaup St.

It might not seem like revolutionary program, but the simple act of accessing education, and along with it, food, social support, character development, and interpersonal relationships, are the foundation for building success in our schools’ communities. Our new crossing guard program works to provide basic access to this, along with a commitment by community educators to share a culture of safety and love with their students. The work won’t be done until we’re able to support every school in the city.