« Lack of coffee shops evident in the Central Hillside | Main | Some Lakeside residents fear bars would be accompanied by crime »

Lakeside-Congdon students keep each other safe

By APRIL HANSEN
DCN Correspondent

School’s out at 2:45 p.m.

The bell rings and the students of Congdon Elementary run out of the front doors into the lightly falling snow. Buses, cars and parents storm the school grounds, where the line of traffic is backed up down the street.

Students, with yellow florescent vests covering their winter gear, run to their posts at the main intersection in front of the school. The stop lights turn red and two of the patrols walk out onto the road with their red flags waving.

Fifth-grade students at Congdon Elementary are involved with the safety patrol program that was started here in 1928 and runs from fall to the spring with the help of the Duluth Police Department.

Deborah Sauer, 5th grade teacher and coordinator of the safety patrol program at Congdon, thinks that kids learn responsibility and teamwork when involved with the program.

“The kids see it as an honor and they take it very seriously,? said Sauer.

The safety patrol movement began in 1920, when AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association) began programs all over the country. Today, over 500,000 boys and girls and 50,000 schools nationwide are involved with this cause.

The big issue surrounding safety patrol programs is increasing drivers’ awareness of crosswalk safety. This is true especially around Congdon because of the busy Superior Street and teenage drivers from East High School.

“The distractions of drivers today, with their cell phones and mugs of coffee, safety patrols are important for the safety of the students,? said Sauer.

Fifth-graders at Congdon are chosen during the spring of each year and go through training with police officer Sharon Montgomery from the Duluth Police Department.

“I train them for an hour, have them take a small quiz and then we go out to the crosswalk to explain the presentation of the flag,? said Officer Montgomery.

There are 360 students from 16 different schools in the Duluth area on safety patrols that learn about crosswalk safety through movies, multiple scenarios and mock crossings with Officer Montgomery.

“A lot of cities use adults, but Duluth still has kids patrol and I personally enjoy working with the kids because they really focus on getting their fellow students safely across the street, while still being aware of the traffic,? said Montgomery.

Parents of students also have had good reactions to the safety patrols at the schools.

“The parents think this is positive experience for the kids, since it teaches them responsibility and safety skills,? said James Wentworth, the advisory teacher at Lester Park Elementary.

Lester Park Elementary also has a safety patrol program that chooses 15 students every spring to lead the patrol. Captains are chosen and the kids are able to monitor the crosswalks on their own with the supervision of a faculty member and with the support and training from the Duluth Police Department.

The students themselves are responsible for reporting any traffic violations made by drivers and also any breaking of cross walk rules by students.

“We’ve been lucky in the area not to have had any accidents involving safety patrols,? said Sauer.

At Ordean Middle School, there isn’t a safety patrol program, but instead uses adult supervisors and a police liaison to patrol the crosswalk before and after school.

“It is just as effective by having adult supervisors directing the crosswalks because middle school kids have much different schedules and teachers throughout the day,? said Jerry Maki, principal at Ordean Middle School.

Principal Maki has been in education for over 20 years and has had experience with safety patrols. He understands the pros and cons.

“A danger that could come up is if the student has a short attention span and does not watch the crosswalk carefully,? said Maki.

At Ordean, students talk about traffic and crosswalk safety monthly, watch videos and role play to reinforce the ideas that a safety patroller would come in contact with. Newsletters are also sent out to the parents which help educate them on cross walk safety, so that they are aware of the risks and dangers.

For the students at Congdon and Lester Park, there are many perks for being a patroller. End of the year parties are thrown with food and fun games and also the chance of marching in the Christmas City of the North Parade that is held down in Canal Park each year. This year, 7 out of the 15 patrollers at Lester Park and the patrol from Congdon participated in the parade held last Friday.

“These are some of the perks that students can look forward to being on the safety patrol, while helping out the community as well,? said Sauer.