On the safe side

On the safe side

Watch a video of Principal/crossing guard Angie Schoonover in action.

Champaign doesn’t really have a rush hour. It’s more of a rush quarter-hour.

But on weekday mornings it happens to coincide with the time lots of kids are headed to school.

Which is why many parents at Edison Middle School are thankful that Principal Blog PhotoAngie Schoonover has donned her fluorescent-yellow safety vest to work as a humble crossing guard at the corner of Green and Prairie streets several mornings a week.

It’s not exactly in her job description, though many principals are known to step outside school to help unload buses or keep parents moving through the drop-off line (not that any of them would be talking on cellphones or anything).

Schoonover, who started at Edison last November, filled in as crossing guard a couple of times last year.

But this fall she decided to make it a regular gig. She and school resource officer Jeremy Canales each take two or three days a week, trading off crossing guard and playground duty.

“We’ve tried to get a crossing guard here at Edison, and we’re still working on it,” she said.

“For the time being, we’re splitting the responsibility. It’s something extra that he does because we can’t get one.”

Crossing guards are currently provided only for Champaign’s elementary schools because of budget constraints, said Veronica Heugel, who coordinates the program for the Champaign Police Department. The program costs about $100,000 a year, she said.

The department is conducting a study of the grade-school crossings, assessing traffic patterns and student counts to see if any changes are needed, she said.

“With budget situations, it’s tough,” Heugel said.

Teachers at Edison do help supervise school grounds before the first bell, but Schooner doesn’t feel comfortable putting them on crossing-guard duty.

“It could be high-risk. That’s why we have decided to split it,” she said. “I figure I’ll take one for the team if I get hit.”

The corner is a busy one on school mornings, with students crossing Green and Blog Photocars lined up from both directions to turn north onto Prairie and drop off students.

This takes place from roughly 7:30 to 7:50 a.m. — just when lots of University of Illinois employees are on their way to work. And many of them are in a hurry.

(My husband has been known to shout unprintable things at vehicles speeding by.)

Last year, a parent expressed concern to Schoonover about the lack of a crossing guard there.

“People just really don’t want to slow down there,” she said, although they usually will when they see her big red stop sign or kids starting to cross.

She’s had to be “a little more forceful” with some drivers who don’t want to stop or try to go around the school buses parked in front of Edison as she’s trying to cross Green with her students. Not to mention a few parents who have been spotted dropping their children off in the middle of the intersection.

Drivers headed to campus also are facing the sun and sometimes don’t see the students, she said.

“I kind of just have to make sure I put my sign up more, or move a little bit to make sure that they do see me,” she said.

Schoonover wasn’t on the street for the first day of school, as she was helping pass out schedules to students.

But she’s been out on many mornings since.

“It is nice making the connection with the students,” she said. “The students appreciate it.”

She’s even had a few high school students — notorious for not wanting to be seen with grown-ups — consent to being helped across the street.

“It also gives me an opportunity to talk to parents who are walking their kids up or dropping them off,” she said.

Schoonover has gotten a few thank-yous, too.

“I think it’s great to see the principal out there in the mornings with her smiling face and her neon jacket and her huge stop sign,” said Anna Kasten, who has an eighth-grader at the school.

“In the past it was really hit or miss,” said Kasten, who has stepped into traffic herself a time or two to help kids cross.

“I think it’s a chance for her to get to know the kids a little bit, and the parents.”

* * *

Click here and here to read about another special crossing guard who brightened our days when my kids were in elementary school.


Julie Wurth writes about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a message below, or contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or Twitter.com/jawurth.


PHOTOS: Principal Angie Schoonover guides students across Green Street before school at Edison Middle School in Champaign on Sept. 25, 2015. John Dixon/News-Gazette

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