City: Lack of crossing guard not factor in accident near school
Police and city officials have said an accident in which a 9-year-old was hit by a car near Ladera Elementary School could have happened even with a crossing guard at the intersection.
This is the first accident near a school since the city removed many crossing guards, according to officials.
The fourth-grader was not seriously hurt in the accident, at 8:23 a.m. Thursday at Tustin Ranch Road and Rawlings Way, one of the 15 intersections to lose its crossing guards. The city also removed all guards during the noon hour for kindergarten students, because a parent or older sibling must accompany kindergartners.
The accident could have happened regardless of whether there was a crossing guard at the intersection, said Lt. Pat Welch of the Tustin Police Department. The driver either failed to see or failed to yield to the pedestrians in the crosswalk and will be cited, he said. The boy’s mother, Ellen Rhie, said Daniel is now afraid to walk to school alone.
The city this year has 16 crosswalks manned with 22 guards and is saving $221,425 in the fiscal year.
The city cannot reinstate crossing guards because of budget restrictions, said Tustin spokeswoman Lisa Woolery.
“I can’t believe that crossing guards at an elementary school can be just removed like that,” said Richelle Sheffield, whose daughter walks to Ladera Elementary.
This year, more students may be walking, biking or being driven by parents, said Tustin School Board President James Laird, because the school district cut its bus routes from 36 to 12 to match the amount of state funding.
Luis Nuñez doesn’t allow his daughter to walk to Ladera Elementary, though the family lives nearby.
“We knew this was going to happen eventually. There’s quite a bit of traffic,” Nuñez said.
“It’s going to happen again, I’m sure,” he said of the accident. Crossing guards are part-time workers contracted by a private company and paid for by the Police Department, which is cutting $1.2 million from its budget this fiscal year.
“We hope the city takes another look at the pedestrian and vehicle traffic patterns around our schools and consider reinstating the crossing guard posts,” said Tustin Unified School District spokesman Mark Eliot. The superintendent and the police chief are meeting next week to discuss the issue.
Last school year, 31 intersections had crossing guards and 11 had a guard on each side of the street.
In an unrelated accident, a 16-year-old boy was hit by a van Thursday near Foothill High School at Dodge Avenue and Whembly Drive.
That intersection is part of the unincorporated area north of Tustin, and was not affected by changes to crossing guard posts.
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