ENCINITAS — A staple at intersections around schools across the country could be on its way to Encinitas — the crossing guard.
The city has been considering a pilot crossing guard program at the corner of Balour Drive and Melba Road, an intersection heavily used by students at nearby Ocean Knoll Elementary School, Oak Crest Middle School and San Dieguito High School Academy, as well as several private preschools.
Originally discussed in March 2018, the Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission on April 8 voted to advance several options of how to administer the program to the City Council.
The first option would be to share the costs and duties with the local school districts, the second would be to bear the costs entirely as a city and the final is to discuss with the Sheriff’s Department about use of the sheriff’s senior volunteer patrol.
Most of the traffic commissioners leaned toward the cost-sharing model similar to what Solana Beach and the Solana Beach School District have used since last summer.
Solana Beach contracts with a company that provides four guards for four-hour shifts daily at an hourly rate of $20.57. Under the agreement with the school district, the city pays 35 percent, or $20,735 annually, and the district pays the remaining $38,507.
City staff, as part of its research, learned that various cities and districts have different agreements for administering and paying for crossing guards.
Encinitas Union School District hires “safety monitors” to assist with valet/student pick-up and drop-off at each of their five campuses. Capri, Flora Vista and Park Dale Lane each have one monitor in the morning and afternoon safety monitors. The monitors are paid for by the district, the school site and the parent teachers association. At Cardiff and San Dieguito Union High School District, staff members monitor students as they leave campus.
Oceanside and Vista have programs similar to Solana Beach, Carlsbad covers the crossing guard program entirely, and San Marcos does not have a crossing guard program, according to a city staff report.
Two of the traffic commissioners favored the third option, the senior volunteer patrol.
“I like the idea of attempting using the senior volunteers,” Commissioner Charlie Lisherness said. “It’s cost effective and engaging an important segment of our population, our seniors, in a useful and meaningful way toward attaining safety goals.”
Commission Chairman Peter Kohl, who serves on the patrol, said that senior patrols were used at Paul Ecke Elementary School before the city set up traffic-calming measures around the campus, and they are frequently used for traffic control at accidents and other incidents.
Using senior volunteers until the end of the school year could give the City Council time to decide on a permanent program and could be a low-cost alternative, Kohl said.
“We don’t work for free, we work for cookies,” Kohl said of the senior volunteers.
Sheriff’s Captain Herbert Taft would have to give the OK to deploy the volunteer patrols as crossing guards, city traffic engineer Abraham Bandegan said.