Two Oakland school crossing guards share their stories
on September 11, 2014
Julie Clyburn blows her metal whistle and raises a stop sign affixed to a white plastic pole. She steps halfway onto Shattuck Avenue at 61st Street and gestures for a young boy to cross the road to Sankofa Academy, a public elementary and junior high school. The kids are taller now after their summer break, and watching the kids grow up is something Clyburn says she loves about her job. She attends graduation every year and cries “right along with the parents.”
Clyburn is one of Oakland’s 49 crossing guards. In addition to helping kids, this job is meant to increase safety in a city where pedestrians—young and old—are at risk of getting hit by speeding vehicles and texting drivers. According to an interactive mapping system maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, there was one pedestrian death and 22 injuries from collisions with motor vehicles within a half-mile of Sankofa between 2010 and 2012.
While the mission of a school crossing guard is to assist young students heading to school, Oakland crossing guards look out for the elderly, too. Crossing guard Minnie Jones, herself a senior at 72, is stationed at San Pablo Avenue and Brockhurst Street, where she regularly helps students going to Hoover Elementary School and seniors from a nearby housing facility.
Oakland’s crossing guards are employed and managed by the police department. The city determines where crossing guards are placed, following guidance from the state of California, which suggests guards should be assigned to intersections where at least 40 school pedestrians will cross in a span of two hours. They work four hours each school day throughout the academic year, and can choose to work in the off-season, manning locations where summer school is in session.
Click the audio links that accompany this story to hear from a few of these orange-clad crossing guards.
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