Marcus Mlawniczak / For WLD
Fall is already in full swing, and that means that traffic throughout Dexter, both auto and pedestrian, is way up. This presents the city with a host of challenges, especially in keeping students safe as they walk to and from school, crossing busy roadways on the way.
As part of the City of Dexter’s overall push to improve pedestrian safety, it has taken over the responsibility of hiring and training crossing guards from the Dexter Community Schools. The one-year pilot program began this month, as more crossing guards will be stationed at the Dexter-Ann Arbor/Kensington intersection and the pedestrian island on Baker Road.
In addition, Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons are also set to be installed this week, as they are vital when it comes to increasing pedestrian safety.
For years, the Dexter Public Schools have been providing paid staff persons to be city crossing guards. In 2018, city officials met with the public schools to discuss ways of improving student safety, especially because the schools have been encouraging students who live close by to walk to school.
Both parties agreed that the public schools should no longer be involved in the employment and training of crossing guards. This role would be taken over by the city.
Dexter City Manager Courtney Nicholls described the transition as one that, “Takes responsibility away from the schools who are busy enough with educating Dexter’s children. It’s one less thing that they will have to worry about.”
The training of crossing guards will remain the same, consisting of approximately one to two hours of computer-based training. Crossing guards will be stationed at multiple locations on Baker Road, especially at the pedestrian island.
Nicholls stated that the city needs another guard at the Dexter-Ann Arbor Road/Kensington intersection, because just one guard is not enough. She continued, stating that the program so far, “Has been completely issue-free.”
As part of this pilot-program, crossing guards will be stationed at the soon-to-be installed Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons along Baker Road, Dexter-Ann Arbor Road and Dan Hoey. Such beacons have become commonplace over the past couple of years within Washtenaw County as Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have installed multiple beacons at busy intersections to increase pedestrian safety.
Another key reason for the city taking over this responsibility is to lower the costs incurred on taxpayers.
When the crossing guards were hired and trained by Dexter Public Schools, they were public employees. This meant that they needed to receive benefits such as health care and pension plans from the schools, aspects that kept costs high. Under the city’s authority, the crossing guards will be essentially at-will employees that will receive $12.50 per crossing guard shift.
The school paid the guards $13.50 an hour, but this complicated things because often times a shift might only be 30 to 45 minutes. In general, the switch in responsibility will greatly reduce costs.
“For the previous cost of one crossing guard, we can now hire and train two,” Nicholls said.
This decision by the City of Dexter will ensure pedestrian safety, all while saving the Dexter Public Schools time and money. Nicholls stated that the city needs a few more crossing guards, especially at the Dexter-Ann Arbor Road/Kensington intersection. The city is taking the proper steps to ensure that pedestrians, especially students, are provided with the proper pedestrian pathways and intersections to safely walk throughout Dexter.