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Protecting children: Crossing guards share concerns

Steve Langford stops traffic to let sixth-grader, Braden Prafka cross the street after school outside the Fairmont Elementary School.

At several crosswalks surrounding Fairmont Elementary School, crossing guards can be seen before and after school.

There are four full-time crossing guards: Fred Link, Dave Johnson, Marlin Hagen and Steve Langford. This is Langford’s 11th year working as a crossing guard.

“I used to do this in grade school and junior high,” Langford said.

Crossing guards are city appointed positions but they work with the police department. Anyone who wishes to be a crossing guard needs to fill out an application and undergo a background check since they’ll be working with children.

Langford is usually wearing his lime green safety vest. When it’s cold out, he’ll wear a blaze orange jacket and matching pants. He said all the crossing guards are either wearing bright safety vests or other bright colors. They also all have a large, orange flag that says “STOP.”

The crossing guards are stationed at crosswalks at :Victoria and South Grant; South Orient and Victoria; South Prairie and Victoria; School and Highland.

They get there at 7:30 in the morning. While school starts at 8 a.m. at the elementary school, the crossing guards stay until around 8:10 a.m. since some children arrive late. The afternoon shift starts at about 2:45 and lasts until around 3:30.

Children that live close enough to walk to and from school, or go to a nearby daycare or relative’s house use the crosswalks. They see all ages of elementary school children and even some high schoolers.

When Langford is stationed at the crosswalk, he sees a lot of drivers go by and observes many different behaviors. Not all of them are admirable.

“They’ll have cell phones to their ears. I see people blow through stop signs,” he explained.

“There’s speed limit signs all around the school. It’s 20 mph when children are present, Langford said.

Minnesota State Law is 20 mph in a school zone. There are marked signs around the elementary school and near St. John Vianney School and St. Paul Lutheran School as well.

“Especially this time of year, slow down. If you’re going to be late, start out earlier,” Langford pleaded.

He pointed out that slippery roads make it harder to stop when it’s needed.

As Langford pointed out children are at the school playground not just during the school day but on weekends too. If a ball gets loose, children will chase after it without checking their surrounding first so it’s important for a driver to be aware, especially when driving near a school playground.

When someone is walking through the crosswalk, they are in the right of way and cars are required to stop.

“If any pedestrian is off the curb, you’re suppose to stop,” Langford reminded.

Langford expressed frustration because parents often park across the street from the school and the children will run across the street to them without using the crosswalk.

“Who are they going to listen to? Me, or mom and dad? We’re there for the protection of the kids,” Langford said of the crossing guards.

Even on mornings when it’s below freezing or raining, the crossing guards will still be seen at their posts.

“As long as school is in session, we’re out there everyday,” Langford said.

He has seen many children grow up over his years of working as a crossing guard. He has also seen siblings pass through.

“There’s at least two girls that I met here that are graduating high school this year” Langford said.

“The kids thank us, both the girls and boys. It’s nice to hear. We love those kids. We look out for them and they treat us well.”

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