There are more cars on the streets today than ever, and studies show that drivers - even with warning signs - have a difficult time slowing down. For months now the City of Winnipeg has been discussing issues regarding school and residential traffic zones.
I sometimes see school patrols on the streets surrounding Prince Edward School, where, with almost choreographed precision, student patrols safely wait for a break in traffic before they step out onto the street, flags outstretched, to guide their charges safely across the street. With a quick, snapping flourish of their flags, the roadway is cleared and patrols retreat back to their sidewalk stations.
It takes a lot to be a school patrol - as well as administer the program - and Prince Edward School’s safety program is stellar. It recently received the Winnipeg Police Service’s award for Best School Safety Program in all of its division, and placed third in the entire city to win the Manitoba Public Insurance Trophy.
"It is a big accomplishment," said patrol co-ordinator Delila Heinrichs, "and the patrols deserve all of it".
Prince Edward School has 22 patrols who cover three intersections and patrol four times a day - with two patrols at each location, along with two school bus patrols. Absences are filled in by spares.
This was the first year the school had patrols on school buses, where, explained Heinrichs, patrols help students while they wait to board the bus and also have duties to ensure safe bus travel. Tasks vary according to where patrols get on and off for their stop.
"Signing up to become a safety patrol is a big commitment", said Heinrichs, who was very excited to hear of their win.
"Patrols are agreeing to donate their time to ensure the safety of other children...they are expected to be on time, be a good example, learn the signals, report dangerous practices and of course work together as a team... the time commitment is big when you think of the accumulated amount of time they have spent on post when, really, they could be spending that time out at recess or with their friends".
Heinrichs’ job, too, involves a great deal of work and co-ordination of the many moving parts of the program, from training, scheduling, equipment, rewards (like movie and sports team tickets from MPIC that couldn’t be provided, owing to COVID-19) and giving direction and support for patrol team captains.
"When they are on post, I make sure to stop by each location, make sure they have good form, give them some words of encouragement and address any concerns".
But, she said, the patrols made her job easy.
Community Correspondent — East Kildonan
Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org