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Tecumseh considers removing crossing guards, parents concerned

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The Town of Tecumseh could soon be without crossing guards altogether, as council considers a plan to phase them out.

It’s one piece of a puzzle town staff say will assemble to make streets and intersections safer.

Alicia Higgison, councillor for Ward One, said Monday most of the parts involved have already gone through council.

“There’s a series of four policies that we’ve already passed that address things like community safety zones and school safety zones and speed mitigation,” she said.

“So we’re in the process of implementing those.”

However, on April 23, when it came to the report outlining the phasing out of crossing guards – Higgison successfully called for the deferral of a vote.

Citing a need for more public education and consultation.

“It was clear we didn’t have enough of a voice from our community and I appreciate that my fellow councillors agreed with me,” she said.

Tecumseh is not the first community to weigh the option of cutting crossing guards.

Chatham-Kent council voted in 2016 to phase them out.

Still, Higgison said she appreciates that the removal sparked a conversation.

Parents and community members have begun to speak out about the possible removal of crossing guards – including Jillian Butler, whose two children are in elementary school.

“I can’t think a of a good reason to phase out crossing guards,” she said.

Butler said she’d spoken to Higgison, her representative at council, several times.

Higgison was able to inform her about the other parts of the plan that town hall believes will bolster safety to fill the void left by crossing guards.

That includes things like flashing crosswalk signs, increased enforcement and heftier fines for unsafe drivers and lower speed limits in some cases.

Butler said those measures didn’t ease her concerns.

“The human element is what I care most about,” she said.

The Butlers moved to Tecumseh 10 years ago.

Her two children – Joyce and Jack – have seen the same crossing guard every morning and every afternoon since.

“She knows every single kid's name,” she said.

“She makes sure they cross safe but she also asks about their math test and their school play and their sports.

“She's not just crossing them across the street. She is a trusted adult to make sure that they feel safe,” said Butler.

Her daughter Joyce will soon be in high school, leaving younger brother Jack to cross alone.

That has not only mom worried, but older sister too.

“What if he forgets to press the button or what if somebody doesn't see him because he's smaller,” said Joyce.

“People might not stop for a machine but they will stop for a person holding a sign.”

Butler said Higgison had been very receptive to her concerns – but she wants all of town hall to hear her.

“Just one councillor isn’t good enough,” she said.

“I think the whole community needs to be heard. This is a community issue, not a school issue. Not an individual issue. It's a community issue.”

She is registered to speak at town council on Monday, May 13 when the potential phase out plan is back for a vote.

There are currently seven intersections manned by crossing guards in Tecumseh.

According to the report before council, paying them will cost taxpayers $85,460 in 2024.

Councillor Higgison, however, said the phase out is not about cutting costs.

“I think that’s a shallow way to look at it,” she said.

“For me I look at if we're going to spend money on something I'd like to make it as equitable as possible, and making sure that we're spending the money on things that that matters the most to people.”

Higgison said the phase out would take years if it were to pass.

Council will discuss and vote on the plan to phase out crossing guards on May 13.

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