Robots vs. Humans: Stratford exploring options for school crossing guards

·2 min read

STRATFORD — Council is hoping to act as soon as possible on a request to employ crossing guards — or possibly machines — for the town's students.

Discussion was had on the topic during a Stratford council meeting at the town centre on Nov. 12. Stratford Elementary School's home and school association had sent council a request for crossing guards to be provided at key crosswalks and intersections for those walking to and from the school.

Infrastructure director Jeremy Crosby noted that a similar request was put forward in 2016 but the council of the time decided against it. Town staff are working with the province to explore Stratford's options and to determine which areas would need additional safety measures — Glen Stewart Drive being among the requested streets.

"But we are looking at other areas, too," he said.

Some possible alternatives to crossing guards would be crosswalks with flashing lights or raised speed humps. Options like these might be preferable as they'd be available for pedestrians before, during, and after school hours, Crosby said.

Coun. Derek Smith, chair of the town's safety services committee, said there's a flagging machine along the Georgetown Road he admires - whenever pedestrians push the machine's button, lights flash and an arm lowers to ensure safer crossing.

"A robot, I suppose you could call it."

Coun. Steve Gallant, however, was in favour of the more traditional crossing guard system.

"I'd be more interested in a human person looking after our children," he said.

Having organized crossing guard patrols in the past, he believes it's a straight-forward system to organize that incentivizes residents, especially those who are retired or looking for paid part-time work, to be more involved in their community.

"I mean, maybe an old guy like myself would retire and would want to be a crossing guard someday," he said.

Mayor Steve Ogden stressed that regardless of what option the town and council eventually opt for, action should be taken sooner rather than later.

"Every day that goes by without them there are a lot of children potentially at risk," he said. "Whatever can be done in the shortest time possible would be the best solution from my perspective."

Because of all the details that need to go into researching the best option and making a proposal to council, there might not be a solution until 2021, Crosby said.

"We're going to move quick, but we want to make sure we're doing the right thing and that we have the money in the budget."

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian