By Kathryn G. Menu
Members of the Bridgehampton School Board of Education joined a parent in expressing frustration last week over what they say is inconsistent and incomplete crossing guard services — a position overseen by the Southampton Town Police Department, which just last month announced it had increased its police presence in the hamlet’s business district to ensure greater pedestrian safety.
On Wednesday, September 21, Bonnie Edwards, who has a child in sixth grade, approached the school board with her concerns. Ms. Edwards said she has been monitoring the crosswalk at the Montauk Highway school for the last two weeks after having to cross her own child — as well as other children — across the busy highway when no one else available to stop traffic and walk the children across the roadway, she said.
According to Ms. Edwards, the crossing guard will not direct traffic to ensure children can cross the roadway safely. Board member Douglas DeGroot said this had been an issue since before the current crossing guard took her position, and that the district has been told crossing guards are “not traffic directors.”
“And when they say we have not complained about it — I have personally complained about it for years and years and years,” said Mr. DeGroot. “If you go into Southampton Village and you go to Hampton Road when something is going on in the school, they are out there directing traffic.”
In an email, Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan C. Ralph said just one parent had complained to the school district. According to Ms. Ralph, the 14 crossing guards employed throughout the town are overseen by Sgt. Todd Bennett.
According to the 2016 Southampton Town Budget, crossing guards earned $8,657 annually for the part time work, which Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Facilities Mr. Robert Hauser said on Wednesday consisted of 40 minute shifts — one in the morning, one mid-day and one at the end of the school day. According to Southampton Town Management Services Adminstrator Russell Kratoville, this week the town board passed a resolution changing the pay structure for crossing guards to $27.50 a shift.
The times crossing guards man crosswalks throughout the town are based on the schedule for school start and end times, Lt. Ralph said.
Mr. DeGroot said on Wednesday that part of the problem is the district needs a crossing guard for longer periods of time in order to accommodate children arriving early to school, and late to classes. Mr. Hauser said as of now, the district was actively documenting crossing guard hours, in order to present a full accounting to the police department, and potentially the town board and Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
On Wednesday, Supervisor Schneiderman said his office has yet to be contacted about any issues with crossing guard service at The Bridgehampton School. That said, the supervisor added he would reach out to law enforcement to look into the matter immediately.
On Wednesday, Sag Harbor School Superintendent Katy Graves said district employee Cathy Carlozzi provides crossing guard services at both Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle High School. While employed as a crossing guard her hours are paid through the Village of Sag Harbor’s annual budget. Sag Harbor Village Police are often seen with Ms. Carlozzi at the crosswalk at the elementary school, lending a helping hand.
Ms. Carlozzi often stops traffic on Hampton Street to allow students to cross, and to direct traffic down Clinton Street where parents can drop children off. During the holidays, she is often seen performing these duties in costume, including in her near-famous turkey outfit just prior to the Thanksgiving break.
In other Bridgehampton district news, board member Jeffrey Mansfield requested the district explore increasing its recess time. Currently students have a 20-minute lunch period and 20-minute recess.
Earlier this month, the Patchogue Medford school district announced it had doubled its recess time from 20 to 40 minutes.
“The fresh air, the reset, I think it is important — especially for our youngest kids,” said Mr. Mansfield. “I know some of our teachers are taking it upon themselves and doing five minutes of yoga here and there.”
Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre agreed, but cautioned that “unstructured” free time could be a challenge with the school’s existing facilities.
“My problem is the gum is taken up all day long,” she noted, adding that when children can play outdoors it is less of an issue.
Dr. Favre said she would gather information for the board and present to them at their next session on October 19.