Crossing guard approved for East Germantown school where student was struck by car

Weeks after a first grader was struck by a car outside Francis D. Pastorius Elementary School in East Germantown, changes are on the horizon.

Since the April 13 incident at the corner of Woodlawn and Sprague streets, concerned parents urged the Philadelphia Police Department’s crossing-guard unit to provide coverage at the busy corner during dismissal.

This week, the department confirmed they assessed vehicular and pedestrian traffic and determined that a crossing guard is necessary.

They said they have started conducting interviews for new guards and expect one will be placed at the corner before school-year’s end.

Currently, the school’s lone official crossing guard oversees the corner of Sprague and Chelten avenues, which is a much busier intersection. In the meantime, parents and volunteer staff members will continue stopping traffic at Sprague and Woodlawn while awaiting a permanent guard.

Skeptical reaction

Darlene Brooks, whose grand-niece attends the school, said she’s not confident it’s ever going to happen. She said she thinks the city is just stalling until the end of the year when a guard isn’t necessary.

Brooks, who noted that she has been at the corner everyday since the incident, said even securing basic needs like a brightly colored vest was a hassle.

“In the past [responses from the city], it’s sometimes just to get your mouth shut,” she said. “It’s interesting that its almost the end of the school year. Until I see one there, those are just words to me.”

Describing how one dedicated staffer helped find them fluorescent safety vests after a week of requests, Brooks explained, “We took magic markers and wrote in volunteer crossing guards.”

Looming school closing?

Brooks proposed one reason for the lack of enthusiasm might have to do with a recent letter she received from the Philadelphia School District. It was an offer to transfer her grand-niece to six different schools in the area if she felt that Pastorius wasn’t good enough academically.

“Is Pastorius going to close?” she asked.

The district recently announced that in order to balance the budget by 2014, more than 60 schools across the city could close in the next two years.

However, the district’s website explained that the letter is part of the school-choice program designed to offer parents with children in low performing schools the option to transfer their child.

Pastorius Elementary is listed as “Corrective Action II 8th year,” according to the online Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report for 2011. The code means that the “school is subject to governance changes such as reconstitution, chartering and privatization.”

Also, the school was not on the list for the previous round of school closings; the new list will be generated after community meetings in the summer.

School-district translation: Pastorius isn’t going to close, for now.

Still, problems linger to the point that a parents association may soon be established in an effort to gain more leverage when it comes to decisions at the elementary school in the future.

“It just seems to me the morale of the staff there, the administration, is low because they don’t know whether the school is going to remain open,” Brooks said.

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