Gulfport crossing guards lose their jobs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport crossing guards lose their jobs

By Jessica Bowman – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The position of paid crossing guard in the Gulfport School District will soon be a thing of the past. Beginning Friday all city crossing guards will be out of a job. The reason? Budget constraints.

Crossing guards in Gulfport are employed by the Gulfport Police Department, not the school district. The police department was asked to find ways to cut down on their budget, so one of their proposals to the mayor was cutting the crossing guards. That proposal was finalized and, according to Gulfport City Spokesman Ryan Lafontaine, is saving the department $90,000. But it's left some parents none too happy.

Crossing guard Thida Hall has been helping kids cross the street for more than ten years. She will soon give up her stop sign and traffic vest.

"Oh, I'm real real sorry about it," Hall said. "I'm going to miss my children and their parents that I come in contact with."

There are a total of 11 crossing guards that will lose their jobs because of budget issues. One West Elementary parent said she thinks the crossing guards are the wrong positions to cut.

"Do you honestly think it's going to be better with them gone?" one parent asked. "With them not here, it just leaves a lot up in the air as far as worries."

The main issue is the safety of the children. Hall said drivers do not pay close enough attention to the children, and without a crossing guard, it could end up deadly.

"Majority of them don't pay any attention, they just be driving," Hall said.

Gulfport School Superintendent Glen East said there is nothing for parents to worry about.

"Our kids will be safe, they won't miss a beat," East said. "It's going to be a different adult there and a different smiling face."

East said there will be faculty and staff, along with coaches and assistants to cover the crossings before and after school. Sgt. Michael Saucier from the Gulfport Police Department said it is unfortunate, but the department has been making strides to help the Gulfport School District to ensure the safety of the students.

"The officers that are assigned to the schools will continue to maintain a presence in the school zones and be a proactive presence within the school zones," Sgt. Saucier said. "So those officers will still be out there helping to insure the safety and welfare of our children as they go to and from school."

In a letter, Principal Scott Powell of West Elementary said parents were not notified about the crossing guards leaving because, "There will be no interruption of service for children walking to school."

There has been no indication if the change will be temporary or permanent.

Sgt. Saucier said the police department has a volunteer program for anyone who would like to donate their time to be a crossing guard. It's called Volunteers in Policing Services. If you're  interested in helping, call (228) 868-5703.

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