On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors unanimously approved making the trial program at Rosemont Middle School permanent, and also put in place a process for middle schools in unincorporated areas to apply for funds for crossing guards. The board received hundreds of letters from local parents, students and school officials urging the move.
Other than Rosemont and the nearby Monte Vista Elementary School, which relies on the same crosswalk, the vote doesn’t impact the rest of the Glendale Unified School District where crossing guards are assigned by the city.
But school officials say they’re glad the county will continue a program that’s already proven effective.
“We’re thrilled that the Board of Supervisors agrees with the district and the community that our student safety is a priority and that they agreed that the middle school students in this area warranted a crossing guard,” said Assistant Supt. Kelly King. “There have been close calls there in the past.”
On school mornings and afternoons, Mario Bocanegra works the intersection at Rosemont Avenue and Los Amigos Street — where there are no stop signs — helping groups of students make it safely across.
“This is one of the most dangerous intersections I’ve ever worked,” Bocanegra said on a recent afternoon. “I call it Route 66 because it’s a freeway here. People are just flying through here like crazy, they go 80, 90 [miles per hour].”
Bocanegra started in 2012 at the behest of school administrators, Rosemont’s Parent-Teacher Assn. and the Crescenta Valley Town Council.
“We’ve noticed that the crosswalk has become enormously safer and it’s changed the flow of traffic in the community,” said Rosemont Principal Cynthia Livingston.
Though there haven’t been any recent student accidents at Bocanegra’s intersection, Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robyn Battles recalled the time when she was a Rosemont student and her brother’s friend was hit and broke several bones.
Bocanegra’s work has also helped drivers in the area by waiting until he has 20 to 30 students before stopping cars instead of before, when students would cross one or two at a time, she said.
“We’re just so thrilled because the traffic is much more controlled,” Battles said. “The first intent was to get kids across the street, but the ripple effect helped with all the congestion.”
The county board’s decision revises current law to allow for crossing-guard services at both elementary and middle schools.
About $800,000 worth of general fund money is being set aside for school districts to contract with more crossing guards, amounting to 54 new hires, said Maria Reyes, a senior civil engineer with the county.
Schools seeking crossing guards must meet certain criteria, such as whether an intersection has stop signs or warning lights and if a crosswalk is being utilized by at least, for example, 20 students per hour, Reyes said.
Bocanegra said he views his work as much more than just a job, and that the students see him more than a man carrying a stop sign.
Seventh and eighth graders surprised him recently with a “Mario Day,” giving him candy and cups of coffee as a token of appreciation.
Bocanegra said even if the Board of Supervisor had voted to end the program, he’d still show up.
“I was thinking of volunteering, that’s just how I felt about these kids, the community and the teachers and parents,” he said. “I didn’t want to let them down.”
Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.