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Red Hill Council Sparks Crossing Guard Conversation
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Red Hill Council has sparked a multi-community conversation on how crossing guards should be managed in the Upper Perkiomen School District. Borough officials recently introduced three options that would shift management responsibilities from member municipalities to the district.

            According to council President Pro Tem Elizabeth DeJesus, option No.1 would require Red Hill, two other municipalities and the school board to approve a contract with a third-party company to handle all administrative duties. The second option calls for the district taking control of all crossing guards and covering all the costs. Under the third option, the district would maintain control. However, the participating municipalities would offer financial assistance.

            Last month, council voted in favor of the third option. Red Hill did not develop the proposals alone, according to DeJesus, who also works as an administrative assistant in the borough. She wrote in a Sept. 30 email that representatives from Upper Hanover, Pennsburg and Red Hill came up with the options together, and that they have met twice to discuss the issue.

            The school district currently utilizes seven crossing guards near three schools in four municipalities throughout the district, according to Communications Specialist Nicole Gum.  

            Four of the guards are stationed along Montgomery Avenue, which borders the township along with Pennsburg and Red Hill, between 8th Street and 11th Street in close proximity to the new middle school and the high school.  

            According to DeJesus, Red Hill officials have not yet met with district officials to discuss the matter. She wrote in a message Tuesday morning that the school board is expected to discuss the issue at its regular meeting Thursday, and that the topic will be included on Red Hill's Oct. 9 meeting agenda.

            District officials declined to express a preference on the proposals. In response to Oct. 1 email message seeking details on the district's position on the issue and discussion with its member communities, Gum responded by providing a copy of the statute governing the administration of crossing guards throughout the Commonwealth.

            School crossing guards – under and subject to the direction of the mayor – shall serve at the pleasure of the council, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes §1127. It states that their compensation "shall be fixed by the council and shall be jointly paid by the council and the board of school directors, in a ratio to be determined by the council and board of school directors." Further, it states that if the council and board of school directors are unable to determine the ratio of compensation "each shall pay one-half of the compensation of the crossing guards."

            Under Red Hill's preferred option, council would enact an ordinance allowing the school board to assume the hiring and oversight of school crossing guards. However, before the council may enact the ordinance, the board must adopt a resolution requesting the authority to assume the hiring and oversight of school crossing guards, according to the ordinance.

            On Monday, the Upper Hanover board of supervisors voted unanimously to pay one third of the 50 percent municipal cost for three crossing guards on Montgomery Avenue with a condition, according to Manager Stan Seitzinger, Jr. He wrote that the members approved the payment "providing that the UPSD hire the company providing the crossing guards and also pays fifty percent of the total cost."

            Last week, during a Pennsburg Borough Council meeting, Members Robert Seville and Bruce Lord argued that the district should take total responsibility for the guards. Seville stated that borough tax payers should not have to cover the cost since they already pay taxes to the district. Lord said during the Oct. 1 public meeting that municipal officials "want the school district to handle it because they can handle it the best." 

            Sandra Kassel, the district's business administrator, disagreed with the members' assertion. She said that it's more economical and practical for the municipalities to maintain responsibility. Kassel added that the district is willing to play a role in the process, but she expressed hope that the boroughs and the township would continue to take the lead.

            DeJesus and Kimberly Gery – a fellow member of Red Hill council – appeared at the Sept. 26  school board workshop meeting to express the municipality's financial support to help pay for a second crossing guard at the intersection of Montgomery Avenue and 11th Street, which encompasses all three municipalities. DeJesus told the members that her community was prepared to pay half the total cost, even if Upper Hanover and Pennsburg were unwilling to contribute, to add a second guard. According to the member, a crossing guard currently directs traffic at the intersection during morning and afternoon rush hours. She said Red Hill officials want the district to install a second guard to assist crossing students.

            During the workshop meeting, the school board voted to approve a motion to add an undetermined amount of guards on a temporary basis. The members directed administrators to determine where they are most necessary. DeJesus identified Main and 11th streets, at the border of Pennsburg and Red Hill as one of those intersections. Superintendent Allyn Roche placed a guard there the following day, according to the Red Hill council member.

            East Greenville currently oversees crossing guards at Main and 5th streets, Jefferson and 3rd streets and 4th and State streets. On Monday night, borough council voted unanimously to request the addition of a fourth crossing guard at Jefferson and 5th streets. Member Alison Palmer made the initial suggestion, citing the danger created by numerous parents dropping their children off in a scattershot manor at the 4th & 5th Grade Center, located at 510 Jefferson Street. After the meeting Palmer explained that parents are double parking near the school and dropping off their kids at random locations along Jefferson Street.

            "Now that we have younger children going to that school, the situation needs to be managed better," Palmer said after the meeting.

            The members directed Secretary Sharon Kachmar and Manager Jim Fry to write a letter to school officials requesting their support for the additional guard. Palmer requested that district officials commit to paying half the cost of the guard.





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