When the Camas School District reduced bus service as a cost-saving measure in 2010, it meant a big increase in kids walking to school.
As a result, more emphasis has been placed on having crossing guards at busy intersections to help students travel safely.
Recently, a grant from the state Traffic Safety Commission, secured by Camas Police Department School Resource Officer Debrah Farland, is helping schools enhance safety patrol programs.
Dorothy Fox Elementary School has a long tradition of school safety patrol, but it has become even more prominent in the last two years, Principal Cathy Sork said.
“Approximately 70 percent of our students walk to school,” she said. “We used to have eight school buses, and now we have three. This school has a long history of the patrol program, but now it’s even more essential.”
The state grant allots $500 to each of the Camas elementary schools.
At Dorothy Fox, it was used to purchase new safety badges, raincoats, hats and stop sign paddles.
“These students are really good at their jobs,” Farland said. “Fourth- and fifth-graders do this and it helps them learn responsibility. I also like that they are taking care of their younger classmates. That’s a good thing.”
To become a member of the Dorothy Fox safety patrol, students must have a teacher recommendation, and write a statement.
“It’s a big source of pride at our school, and we continually have more applicants than we have spaces for,” Sork said. “
Although it was difficult to adjust to having a larger number of kids walking, Sork said she feels the change has been positive overall.
“Parents are getting to know each other better, it’s environmentally friendly and great physical fitness,” she said.
Laura Teames, a fifth-grader, wanted to be a member of the safety patrol because her sister had done it the year before and enjoyed the experience.
“I thought it would be fun,” she said. “You get to help people and have pizza parties. I like the thought that I’m helping people be safer.”
She said the most difficult part of the job is being on duty when the weather is bad.
“On pajama day, it rained, hailed and snowed,” she said. “And I was just wearing thin pajamas. I wore a heavier coat the next time.”
Fifth-grader Alicia Devera enjoys helping people.
“I like to help people get to school safely in case something happens,” she said.
Fifth-grader Darian Holmes and her father are both part of the program. Don Holmes supervises the safety patrol members before and after school every day, while Darian helps her fellow students.
“I really like to be outside with my friends and help people,” she said.