OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A retired grandfather in Ocean Springs took actions into his own hands, and now many are grateful. Jeffrey Hayden had enough of heavy-footed drivers speeding past his grandson’s preschool and decided to do something about it.
Hayden donned a reflective safety vest Monday, waving at drivers to slow down in front of the old Taconi Elementary building. Hayden’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. When word got out about his concerns, there was an immediate improvement.
And parents of the children who attend the school are grateful.
“I actually think he’s doing a great job. My son has been coming to this Head Start, it’s his second year. Traffic is coming through here pretty quickly, no regard for the children crossing. It’s great. His effort is appreciated,” said parent Jacqueline Catchings.
And Hayden agrees improvements have already been made.
“It’s made a whole lot of difference. We’ve made adjustments with the cones across the street, in the middle of the road. And the news last night helped out tremendously,” he said.
The building was donated by Ocean Springs School District to the city years ago.
Before Hayden’s efforts, parents and teachers at Head Start say they have been dealing with people driving too fast in front of the school since 2013 they moved into the old elementary school.
Not even half an hour after dismissal Monday, Hayden was flagging down speeders. One man who was stopped, claimed to be going 15 miles per hour.
The problem got so out of hand that he made his own stop sign on a piece of red cardboard and has been standing in front of the school twice a day, at drop-off and again at pick-up. He says he’s seen too many children break free from their parents when crossing the street to ignore it anymore.
"Me and my grandson almost got hit right here Friday afternoon," Hayden said pointing to the street in front of the school.
There are no school zone signs on that section of road where Magnolia Avenue meets Government Street. The only signs in the area are a crosswalk sign on the corner and a sign posted in front of the school telling drivers to slow down for children between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“These kids are [out of school] by 3 o’clock,” Hayden said.
He was so frustrated with the speeders that he went to City Hall with his sign and spoke to Mayor Shea Dobson and Alderman Ricky Authement to get them to fix the problem.
"What happens if you lose a kid or a grandson? I couldn't sleep at night if something happened to them."
The mayor said he understands the issue and has been working to solve the problem. The city ordered a traffic study for that area of Magnolia Avenue and Government Street.
“I drive by there quite often and it is something that concerns me, which is why they put the traffic study together,” said Dobson.
According to the mayor, the results from the traffic study will be discussed at the city meeting on Tuesday
Until Hayden sees the right changes made near the school, he says people know where to find him before and after that school bell rings.
“I’m gonna be here. As long as my health holds up I’m gonna be here,” said Hayden.
Public school students have not attended classes at Taconi Elementary since 2012, when it was closed as part of Ocean Springs School District’s realignment. It now used by Head Start and other community programs.