Dr. Howard parents plead for crossing guard at school's new home

Dr. Howard parents plead for crossing guard at school's new home

CHAMPAIGN — After numerous calls to district and city officials, some parents of Dr. Howard Elementary students remain frustrated that a crossing guard hasn't been assigned to a busy intersection outside the school's temporary home.

It's been three weeks since classes started at the former Columbia Center on Neil Street, where they'll be held the next two years as the century-old Dr. Howard building is torn down and built anew.

For the first few days at their new home, school PTA President Kristin VanDuyne said, police officers manned the high-traffic intersection of Randolph Street and Beardsley Avenue.

"Then they were gone," VanDuyne said. "Now, we've got kids running across Beardsley and Randolph without any crossing guards. It seems like an accident waiting to happen."

VanDuyne said parents started calling Unit 4 officials about the issue nearly two weeks ago. But it's not the district's matter alone to deal with, district spokeswoman Emily Schmit said: School crossing guards work under police oversight. Unit 4 and Champaign police collaborate, but the actual decision of where to place crossing guards is the city's to make, Schmit said.

The school district and the city "have been working together leading up to the new school year," Schmit said. "Those conversations focused on the overall traffic flow for cars, buses and walkers, resulting in the pick-up and drop-off map shared with Dr. Howard families before school started."

That explanation has failed to satisfy some parents, who say they've called Champaign City Council members, as well as district and city officials, in search of a solution.

"Several (council members) said they would try to help and try to figure out whose responsibility this is and how we can get that taken care of over the weeks," VanDuyne said.

Neither the district nor Champaign police could confirm Thursday whether a guard would be added to the area or when such a decision would be made.

Police spokesman Thomas Yelich said the department is "working diligently" to identify issues and plans and "continue to work with Unit 4 to ensure the public is informed of any modifications to traffic patterns, drop-off zones or if crossing guards need to be relocated or added.

"Our hope, as best possible, is to make school drop-off and pick-up an untroublesome experience without sacrificing public safety," he added.

To parent Jolee Phelps, that's not enough.

"I'm calling everyone until somebody takes responsibility," she said.