Talking safety at Lynden Schools crosswalks

Talking safety at Lynden Schools crosswalks
Posted on 11/15/2016
Esther Templin has nearly four years of accident free crosswalk monitoring at Lynden High School to her name. And now Lynden Middle School has joined the crosswalk guard initiative as all Lynden Schools look for ways to improve student safety in often-hectic drop-off and pick-up zones.

A recent district safety meeting raised heightened concerns regarding the amount of traffic among pedestrians with an increased observation of distracted drivers, limited visibility due to winter darkness and weather and the apparent rise in a lack of patience in these zones.

David VanderYacht, assistant superintendent, says the value of working extra margins into lives to allow for more time—and, thus, additional patience—can solve many woes in terms of student safety in regard to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Templin, an officially certified flagger, says she has seen an increase in speeding and cell phone use while driving through school zones, even when students are present.

“It is not just the teenagers,” she says. “I can catch them and talk to them and then they slow down. It is the community members and parents. One day a lady was driving by with her cigarette and cell phone in one hand and coffee in another hand and was speeding through a school zone. You see all kinds of stuff.”

And as an official flagger, Templin has the ability to send a police report—she has a stack of them in her LHS office—and the drivers can then be cited.

She says the most important thing is simply for community members and parents to be aware of the 20 mph limit, the flashing lights that signify a pedestrian in the crosswalk and the simple fact that the darkness limits visibility. “Just this morning,” she says, “I had my flag out and lights were flashing and there was a near miss. That happens a lot.”

And that’s why VanderYacht preaches margins, building in a bit of extra time, whether you know you will drive near a school zone or if you are dropping off or picking up a student.

At Lynden Middle School a new concentrated effort has posted a crossing guard at the main crosswalk in front of the school in the morning from 7 to 7:40 a.m. and after school from 2 to 2:15 p.m. Physical education teacher Trey Ballard has taken over the morning role until a permanent person can be brought on board.

“The drivers are getting used to it and they are slowing down and stopping and the students like it because they have someone out there to help guide it,” says principal Molly Mitchell-Mumma. “The students also like having Mr. Ballard greet them in the morning.”

Mitchell-Mumma says the response from the students and the parents remains overwhelmingly positive. “We are seeing such an increase in traffic and in the mornings when it was so dark it was becoming unsafe,” she says. “We have somewhat of a lighted crosswalk, but it is hard for those people to see the kids.”

Middle school staff will continue to work on ways to keep students safe with the increase in traffic, but Mitchell-Mumma says she looks forward to the move to the new building with an engineered drop-off and pick-up area.

And just because the elementary schools have more defined area for drop-off and pick-up doesn’t make awareness any less important, especially with students biking and walking to school in winter lighting and weather and the congestion that happens in front of the school.

In the end, safety comes down to the community willingly working margins into their lives, which produces room for patience. That patience increases student safety.