This was the traffic situation Thursday morning trying to leave Walter J. Baird Middle School onto North Castle Heights Avenue.
TOMMY BRYAN / The Wilson PostBy JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post
Traffic congestion around a local school in the early morning and afternoon is the result of one crossing guard suffering an illness and another one who quit, a law enforcement official said Thursday.
Traffic at Walter J. Baird Middle School, and to a degree Coles Ferry Elementary School which is next to and in front of WJB, has been moving slower in recent days due to the absence of the two crossing guards, and concerns have been expressed that budget cuts by the City of Lebanon may have played a part.
Such concerns, however, are incorrect.
“That is absolutely not true,” said Lebanon Commissioner of Public Safety Billy Weeks.
The City of Lebanon has funded the crossing guards for the LSSD for at least 30 years, he said, noting the school system previously funded them. The crossing guards are supervised through the Lebanon Police Department.
Among the concerns expressed about the crossing guards, specifically the lack of two of them, was the fact that school officials were unaware at first that the two were out. One of them was located at the corner of Coles Ferry Pike and North Castle Heights Avenue, and the other was in back of the school. At least one crossing guard remains at WJB.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Scott Benson, principal at WJB.
He said he has noticed traffic backing up since spring break and did not know about the two crossing guards. He said he called LSSD Assistant Director Randall Hutto about the situation who told him perhaps the city became involved due to ongoing budget issues.
“They don’t have anything to do with us,” Hutto said yesterday, referring to the crossing guards which are furnished and funded by the city. “It’s a service the city provides for Lebanon Special School District.”
Hutto said he thought there might some concerns about the city’s budget next year, but so far nothing definitive has been said and crossing guards supplied by the city at all LSSD schools are in place through the rest of the school year which ends in May.
Even so, he said he understood that one crossing guard had been sick and the other was to retire.
Weeks noted city officials are concerned about the budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 and they have been in discussions with school board members and others but emphasized no decision has been made regarding funding crossing guards.
“There is nothing that’s not up for consideration. We are absolutely bleeding,” Weeks said, adding officials will have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks and months as revenue continues to lag.
Officials must make sure the city is providing the most vital services to citizens while looking at everything in the budget.
Weeks agreed “it’s frustrating to sit in traffic.”
“We’re hanging in there. It’s taking a few more minutes,” Benson said for the traffic to work through.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.