schoolcrossingsign

St. Bede gets a new crossing guard

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Concerns over kids’ safety on 83rd Street 

By Tim Hadac

A struggle this school year to get a crossing guard stationed at a grade school in the Scottsdale neighborhood appears to have a successful outcome.

Children and parents at St. Bede School, 4440 W. 83rd St., now have a crossing guard for both morning arrival and afternoon dismissal.

The guard, a Chicago Public Schools employee, is a part-timer who works a split shift: two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon.

CRRNH StBedeXingGuard 121622

A scene from a 2019 cellphone video made and posted by a St. Bede parent concerned about safety on 83rd Street.

“This is a relief for parents and others concerned about the safety of our community’s children,” said Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch President Jason Huff. “It took some pressure on our part, but it got done.”

The problem, Huff said, was that the crossing guard tasked with escorting students and parents across 83rd Street—from the parking lot on the south side of the street to the school on the north side, and back—was reportedly absent more than on the job. On top of that, CPS routinely failed to provide a substitute.

That matters, he added, because a number of motorists routinely roll or even ignore stop signs on 83rd Street. In fact, an exasperated St. Bede parent made and posted a cellphone video in 2019, showing drivers doing exactly what Huff described.

Efforts to address the situation in September, October and November were unsuccessful. About four weeks ago, St. Bede Principal Sherry Stewart appealed to parents for help.

“I have exhausted all contacts in trying to rectify the situation regarding us having a consistent school crossing guard on busy 83rd Street,” she wrote in a “Dear Parents” email. “I have been greatly concerned about the safety of our students crossing 83rd, especially since it is not at a corner. I have contacted elected city officials, and Chicago Public Schools representatives. We have no resolution to this ongoing safety issue.

“I was informed that I am unable to cross our students and possible litigation could be taken against me because I do not have some special phone with direct access to emergency personnel which crossing guards are required to have in Chicago’s city limits,” she added.

One of the parents appealed to the Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch, which in recent years has earned a reputation for community activism, especially where public safety is concerned.

That led to Huff reaching out via email to CPS Chief Safety and Security Officer Jadine Chou, with a copy to 18th Ward Ald. Derrick Curtis and Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Bryan Spreyne.

Chou responded by acknowledging the concerns and admitting that CPS is “currently challenged with having substitutes” to cover regularly assigned crossing guards.

“It is something we have been urgently working on and have asked for assistance from our other city partners in the immediate term,” she added. “It is something that is a very high priority for us.”

Understanding the concern is Bertha Torres, the mother of a St. Bede eighth grader. She is the woman who made the 2019 video of drivers ignoring stop signs on 83rd Street.

“It can be a dangerous situation,” she told the Greater Southwest News-Herald earlier this week. “Those in charge need to do a better job of protecting the children.”

Her understanding of the dangers stems not only from her concern as a parent, but also from the fact that when she was a 4-year-old girl, she was struck by a vehicle.

That experience helps explain why in 2022 she is a teacher and volunteer crossing guard at Dawes Elementary School, about a mile east of St. Bede, in the Ashburn Neighborhood.

Huff agreed and said the SNW will continue to work with St. Bede administrators and parents to ensure steady crossing guard services. The SNW will also press Curtis to see if the Chicago Department of Transportation can install some “traffic calming” devices to get motorists to drive in a more safety-conscious manner.

“You can’t install speed humps or anything like that on 83rd, because it’s an arterial street,” Huff told the Greater Southwest News-Herald earlier this week. “But there are steps that can be taken, like installing better signage. We plan to stay on top on this. Our children deserve our best efforts.”

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