For the first time in over a year, thousands of Cincinnati Public Schools students have started showing up to in-person learning five days per week, and police are cautioning drivers to slow down and pay attention.
"Put the cell phone down," said Bill Cole, a crossing guard of seven years. "That's probably the biggest thing that I see, are people that go by me all the time, every day, probably more than 50% of the drivers that I see have their phone stuck up in their face. They're not paying attention."
His wife Regina Cole has been working as a crossing guard for about 20 years. She said there have been numerous "close calls" when drivers go through red lights.
The Coles raised four daughters together, they said. They understand the importance of their jobs to get children to and from school safely. And they've been able to develop relationships with the students they see each morning and afternoon.
"The responsibility weighs heavy on us," Bill Cole said. "It would be devastating to me if something happened to one of them. Especially when I'm responsible for them."
Two 7-year-old girls were hit by a car on Vine Street in Avondale last week. One of the girls, Shareese "Ree Ree" Lattimore, died. Cincinnati police said the incident did not occur while the children were walking to or from school.
CPS students returned to five-day in-person learning after spring break on March 31. Walnut Hills High School students also returned, in phases. All students in the district who opted for in-person learning this spring have returned by Wednesday.
CPS, with the help of Cincinnati police, posted a note on its website this week with reminders for drivers now that students are back in school:
- Always stop your vehicle before a crosswalk.
- Reduce your speed when traveling through school zones.
- Always stop for a crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
- Do not block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn.
"As students return to in-person learning five days a week, there will be a lot more traffic near our schools, including pedestrians and cyclists," the post reads. "We urge motorists to drive safely around school zones."
Cincinnati police say there are about 115 crossing guards currently employed, and 20 crossing guard positions to be filled for the rest of this school year. Interested applicants can contact Cincinnati police at 513-352-1472 and ask to speak with Kate Neack.