Cold crossing: School patrols must guard against more than traffic when temperatures drop

Kylie Weyer, grade six, stops traffic so kids can cross the street at the intersection of Osman Avenue and Orleans Street in Stillwater Jan. 3. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Kylie Weyer, grade six, stops traffic so kids can cross the street at the intersection of Osman Avenue and Orleans Street in Stillwater Jan. 3. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Oak Park Elementary sixth-grader Kylie Weyer says the toughest part of being on school patrol is standing outside waiting — especially when it’s cold.

Despite chilly temperatures last week, Kylie stood at the corner of Osman Avenue and Orleans Street Jan. 3, stopping traffic with a wave of her orange flag so students could navigate the intersection safely.

“Most of the time kids will come in big groups, so then you’re only crossing like one or two times,” she said.

During the lulls, she walks in place to keep warm.

It’s Kylie’s second year  on school patrol, and she’s learned how to bundle up for the cold.

“I wear my really heavy boots, snow pants if it’s like, super, super cold out … and then my heavy-duty jacket, a hat that covers my ears, and then I put my hood up over my face,” she said. When it’s extra cold, she makes sure to wear warm clothes beneath her winter attire, as well.

On the coldest days, sixth-grader Jacob Andreachi, a first-year school patrol member, wears a similar outfit. But he admits he hasn’t always chosen the best clothing for the weather.

“Sometimes you’ll wear the right stuff and stay warm,” he said. “And sometimes you won’t wear the right stuff, and the snow’s getting in your face, and you can’t really focus on what’s actually happening.”

Zachary Benson, grade six, returns from duty as a school patrol member at the intersection of Osman Avenue and Orleans Street in Stillwater Jan. 3. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Zachary Benson, grade six, returns from duty as a school patrol member at the intersection of Osman Avenue and Orleans Street in Stillwater Jan. 3. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Even though patrol members might feel chilled sometimes, adults at the school pay close attention to what patrol members wear, according to Oak Park Elementary teacher Travis Sauve, who’s in his ninth year as patrol advisor for the school.

“When it gets this cold, I have to monitor the students more closely, what they’re wearing, and making sure they’re dressed appropriately for the weather,” he said. “When it’s below zero they have to have something for their face, jackets, snow pants, boots, hats and gloves so that skin’s not being exposed to the cold weather.”

Once in a while Sauve has to take patrol members off duty for the day because they aren’t dressed for the weather. But for the most part, the patrol training and the reminders he sends home are sufficient.

“Our patrols do a really good job,” Sauve said. “I’ve been really impressed, especially with this recent cold spell that they’re bundled up.”

When it’s especially cold, Sauve might send the patrols out later than usual to minimize their exposure to the cold.

If the wind chill drops below -20 degrees, the school keeps patrol members inside.

“It’s just too dangerous then,” he said.

When that happens, adults may patrol the busiest intersections, but Sauve said not many students walk to school in those conditions.

In his nine years as patrol advisor, Sauve has not seen a single instance of a patrol member getting frostbite on duty. And he believes their presence helps protect other students from the hazards of cold weather.

“I think a lot of times cars aren’t stopping, and kids would stand there a lot longer if we didn’t have patrols putting the flags out to let the kids get through those busy intersections,” he said.

Even in the cold, Kylie and Jacob say the job they do as patrol members is worth the hassle.

“If there weren’t any crossing guards, then the kids … could get hit by a car or something and get seriously injured,” Jacob said.

Kylie agreed, saying many of the younger children she walks would probably run across the street without looking if she weren’t there to help.

“It’s always super cold,” Kylie said. “But we know we’re crossing the younger kids, so we … know we possibly could be saving their lives … so it’s worth it.”

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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