The doors shut for good at Hamburg Elementary School and the days of pedestrian elementary students has come to an end.Crossing guards in the borough, however, feel they're needed just as much now as they were any year in the past and are a mixture of furious and concerned at their perceived collective firing.
Both Hamburg Area school directors and the borough have failed to reach an accord on the necessity of the iconic pedestrian crossing guards and have indicated they will not be working this school term.
Hamburg employs eight full-time crossing guards who stop busy borough traffic to allow students to cross streets. They work an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Each crossing guard is paid $10 per hour and in a week, each makes $100. With those calculations, the total cost for nine months of service from eight guards would be $28,800.
The costs were split evenly between the school district and the borough. Their service was absolutely necessary when Hamburg Elementary was open until June as walking students, not living along a bus route, trekked to and from school and home on a daily basis. Now with Hamburg Elementary making way for the $27 million Tilden Elementary Center, no student attending that school can walk, and will ride the bus.
According to Hamburg Mayor Roy C. DelRosario, the two paying sides of this equation are at a stalemate. He said the borough is willing to pay its share to keep the crossing guards, but is not getting any reciprocation from the school district. The Mayor said he and Hamburg Police Chief Michael C. Painter are concerned for the youngest students' safety in the absence of the crossing guards.
"We are looking at the bus stops," DelRosario said. "There are no pick ups on Third Street and Fourth Street whatsoever. Kids are still going to have to cross there. How do you tell a kid he's got to walk from Fifth and Island and he has to cross Fourth Street?
"We are at a stalemate. The school board is not getting back to us," DelRosario said last week in a bit of plea for action." I don't know what to tell our crossing guards," said DelRosario.
However, The Item was able to track down Hamburg Superintendent Steven Kiefer on Monday, just an hour following a visit from DelRosario to show the proposed bus stops and further emphasize his point about the need for crossing guards.
Kiefer seemed stunned by the allegations that the district was not willing to pay its share of the crossing guard salaries.
After inquiring around the district, Kiefer said, "No one knows why anyone would make that statement. We plan to pay our half."
Kiefer continued to say the district is planning a meeting for Tuesday of this week to discuss how many crossing guards will be needed and where.
"We've had a good relationship with the borough," Kiefer said. "That is why we have the meeting."
This meeting to discuss the borough bus situation was delayed because the district's transportation director had been on vacation until Aug. 12.
Last week when crossing guards asked the Mayor what the plan was for the upcoming term, he was short on answers and knew only to instruct them to turn in their reflective vests and hand-held stop signs.
Debbie Reber, crossing guard at the very busy and constantly hectic Third and State streets, has not turned in her guard uniform just yet. She said the communication between the borough and school board all of the crossing guards is poor to non-existent. She also said the school district neglected to inform parents there would be no crossing guards in place on Hamburg streets this year when it issued bus schedules.
Reber said the district's plan to get students to Tilden Elementary Center is to have them form at several mass bus stops throughout the borough. Some stops, she said, will have at least 50 students boarding at once.
"(The borough) didn't tell us. I went to the borough last Monday (Aug. 4) and Officer Leymeister and (Police Secretary) Joyce Clay said (crossing guards) won't be used," Reber told The Item. "What angered me is not one parent was told there would be no crossing guards. I think that was really wrong. There are so many little kids that go off to school alone. That was irresponsible."
Reber said her anger over being sacked by her two part-time employers is not about the money, but the safety of the children and the lack of disclosure coming from school district officials. She did say the amount of money the district spent on the high school and new elementary school, and the amount pending to renovate or rebuild Perry Elementary, casts a shadow on the amount it would take to keep students safe before and after school.
"They can build all these ridiculous school buildings but don't care about the kids going to them," Reber said.
"We have a responsibility (to protect the children)," Mayor DelRosario said. "The ultimate responsibility falls on the school. They are not giving them safe routes to walk."