Crossing guard back on duty at busy Portland intersection

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PORTLAND — A major infrastructure improvement project along State Street hasn’t just inconvenienced motorists.

Students walking to school have also had to contend with the disruption, which often meant altering their route.

This week, a crossing guard normally stationed at the busy intersection of State Street and Cumberland Avenue will be back on duty after students were encouraged to avoid the area for several weeks by School Department officials and Reiche Elementary School staff. 

With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observed Monday, the crossing guard was expected to once again be on the job Tuesday morning.

“Crossing guards are placed at busy intersections all around the school for a half hour before and after school to ensure that traffic stops for children coming and going to school each day,” Barbara Mascarenas, of the Reiche Elementary School PTO, said this week.

“The corner of Cumberland and State is a very busy intersection, as both streets are main arteries in the city. State Street is especially dangerous to cross as … commuters trying to make it over the bridge in the morning create a steady stream of traffic going at a much higher speed than is safe in a residential neighborhood.”

Mascarenas said there is usually a crossing guard at the intersection, but during the recent roadway construction work around that specific corner, “there was no safe way for anyone to cross with or without a crossing guard.”

She said the Reiche PTO put a notice on Facebook toward the end of last week to inform parents that “they can again take that route to school” starting Jan. 16.

Mascarenas said a crossing guard was on duty at State and Cumberland throughout the fall, but right before the winter break the construction schedule meant that the guard was temporarily removed.

“This was right before the winter break (though), so there was not too much effect on our students,” she added.

Matt Battson has held a number of different jobs, but so far being a crossing guard is one of his favorites. He is able to work full-time with two shifts each morning and afternoon.

He’s the crossing guard assigned to Cumberland and State and said what he most enjoys about the job is that it’s “simple, quiet, dignified and worthwhile.”

Battson said he’s often surprised by the number of kids who thank him for helping them to cross the street. “It really means a lot.”

Overall, “crossing guards are provided to increase the safety of elementary school students who must cross major roadways while walking to and from school,” Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said this week.

He said recent construction work at the intersection of State and Cumberland “caused unsafe crossing conditions for students and the crossing guard, so services were temporarily suspended. Construction has (now) finished, so crossing guard services are being reinstated.

Botana said this is the first year that the School Department has been in charge of providing crossing guards. Prior to the current fiscal year, that service was part of the city’s annual municipal budget.

He said the schools are now using a contractor, who ensures there are 28 crossing guards on duty at schools all around the city each morning and afternoon that school is in session. The cost is about $200,000 per year.

Botana said there are openings for anyone who might be interested in becoming a crossing guard. Email ron@thecrossingguardcompany.com for more information.

“The essential duty of a crossing guard is to make sure that students going to and from school get across roadways safely,” Botana said.

But they also do much more.

“Crossing guards are often the first adult associated with the Portland Public Schools that students encounter in their day,” Botana said. “Crossing guards are above all very caring for student safety (and) are very committed to … perform(ing) their daily duties.”

“It’s all about protecting the kids,” Battson said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Matt Battson, crossing guard for the busy intersection at State Street and Cumberland Avenue in Portland, is back on duty after being temporarily relocated because of construction.

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