Crossing guard request denied

County rejects plea for corner near school

August 03, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

County officials have turned down a request by a group of North Laurel parents petitioning for a school crossing guard at a busy intersection near Laurel Woods Elementary School.

After conducting a six-week traffic study, Howard County transportation officials said that the intersection at North Laurel Road and Old Lantern Way in North Laurel does not meet transportation guidelines for a crossing guard.

"We believe that the intersection warrants improvements but not a crossing guard," said George E. Frangos, an engineer with Howard County's Department of Public Works. "We evaluated the number of students in the school and the amount of traffic on the road, and it does not meet the criteria," he said.

A group of parents feel differently. They say that they've observed excessive speeding up and down Old Lantern Way, and are concerned for the safety of students who walk to and from school. They were hoping that a crossing guard would be assigned to the intersection Aug. 30, when school resumes.

"Our main concern is the children," said Shannon Tomchick of North Laurel. "Something has to be done to make sure that our children are safe when they walk to school."

Tomchick, who has two children at the elementary school, joined forces with the school's PTA to sponsor a petition drive in support of the crossing guard effort. The parents gathered 905 signatures, even garnering the support of Laurel Woods Principal Roseanne Wilson, but not enough to persuade transportation officials to place a guard at the intersection.

"What else needs to happen?" Tomchick asked. "A lot of people are going to be angry and upset with this decision. It just doesn't make much sense."

"I think it's clear that a guard is needed," said Donna Thewes, another parent. "The county is not really addressing the needs of the community -- it's very frustrating."

Transportation officials defended the traffic study. While they say that a guard is not needed, they have agreed to re-stripe the streets, install advance warning signs on the Old Lantern Way approach, and conduct further traffic-calming studies.

Between 1993 and 1997, three traffic accidents were reported at the intersection. None have been reported during 1998 and 1999, officials said. State Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Clarksville Republican who assisted the community in getting the Transportation Department to commission a study, said he supports the findings. "This study is fair, based on the criteria that have to be met," Madden said.

But parents say that the Transportation Department's recommendations are not enough and have argued that the criteria might need to be revised.

"Painting a crosswalk is not going to save our children's lives," said Tomchick. "We need something more."

Residents say that they plan to ask County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel Democrat, and Madden for help in persuading the Howard County police to station a patrol officer at the school before and after school.

Four years ago, another traffic study concluded that a crossing guard was not needed, said William F. Malone, chief of the traffic engineering division of the Public Works Department.

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