With low use, crossing guard service cut at West Marin School

David Briggs
There will be no crossing guard this year at West Marin School, where the number of children walking to and from school on a daily basis fell to 11 last year. A host of other schools in Marin may lose guards in 2019 due to limited funding.  

Attention back-to-schoolers: Look both ways! Due to a drop in the number of students who commute on foot, the Transportation Authority of Marin has cut crossing guard service at West Marin School. Unable to piece together independent funding or hire a volunteer, the district has no plans to refill the post. Dan Cherrier, a project manager for the transportation authority, said just 11 students used the crosswalk on a daily basis last November, compared 16 recorded during a 2014 survey. “In a more populated area, a drop of that few kids wouldn’t make a difference, but for the West Marin School, it tipped the balance, even though we use rural criteria with a very low threshold for the site,” Mr. Cherrier said. The threshold is not a pre-determined number, but rather a density limit calculated through a variety of factors. The decision to make the cut was also part of a larger funding dilemma the transportation authority faces that may affect a host of other Marin districts. In recent years, costs for the county’s Pasadena-based contractor, All Cities Management Services, have been on the rise. Though wages for crossing guards still hover around the county’s minimum living wage, $14.20, Mr. Cherrier believes increased overhead and lack of competition had contributed to rising costs. Using a system of evaluation that factored in vehicle count, speed limit and the distance to the school, among a host of other considerations, the transportation authority determined a group of lower-priority spots. Now, 22 of the 150 crossing guard sites in Marin are on the chopping block, pending the renewal of a half-percent transportation sales tax in November. Even if the ballot measure passes, however, West Marin School and two other school spots in eastern Marin will be eliminated this year. Guards everywhere else are funded through 2018. Shoreline Unified School District’s superintendent, Bob Raines, said there are liability problems with tasking a volunteer at the post and said that although the district does not have funding for a new position, “it’s something we are considering. I disagree with the county’s assessment and still think it’s an important service for us to have to maintain safety.” According to the county’s database, enrollment in the Shoreline Unified District last year was 510, a number that has stabilized over the past five years, though it’s still a far cry from historic numbers, with 869 students in the district in 1994.