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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Canyon View crossing guard: Proactive in schoolchildren's safety

Feb 01, 2018 10:38AM ● By Julie Slama

Canyon View crossing guard Shirley Crews informs a motorist about the school safety zone. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Don’t think twice about going slightly over the school zone speed limit or darting across the street instead of waiting to be told it’s safe in the crosswalk.

Canyon View Elementary’s crossing guard, Shirley Crews, will stop you if you do.

“It’s my job to make sure these kids cross safely,” said Crews, who has served her last 23 of 25 years at the elementary school. “There hasn’t been any accidents since I’ve been here.”

On this particular January afternoon, a driver stopped a few feet beyond the zone marked for safe crossing. After motioning for him to back up, Crews walked over to his window to remind him that from “sign to sign, it’s a school safety zone.”

“I motion for the drivers to slow down and make sure they aren’t going at the stop points. I’ve called businesses to let them know their drivers aren’t slowing down. I’ve taken down car license plates and driver descriptions and reported them. I’ve had drivers stand beside me while on patrol to see why they need to slow down. I hate to see drivers going fast, making U-turns — you can’t do that — and not being safe,” she said.

Students who cross also know the drill. One afternoon, for example, as cars slowed down, a student tried to start crossing but was stopped by her peer.

“Shirley will tell us when it’s safe,” the student told her classmate before thanking Crews, who walked to the middle of the crossing zone to ensure vehicles were stopped before she called the girls as well as other students and families to safely enter the crosswalk.

Crews explained, “A lot of them know that they can’t cross until I say it’s safe,” she said.

The bottom line for Crews is safety, Canyon View office aide Bonnie Mays said.

“If people don’t like her, then, they’re probably speeding,” she said. “If you do like her, you probably have a kid she’s keeping safe.”

Mays said that Crews’ top priority is the students.

“She puts the students before everything else. She’ll put herself out there on the busy road, educating community drivers, helping with our safety patrol at pick-up and making sure students cross safely,” she said.

Fifth-grader Audrey Sjoblom, who is on safety patrol, said that Crews is helpful.

“She teaches us and tells us which side of the street to stand on when we’re on patrol,” she said.

Crews started safety patrol at the school 23 years ago. The safety patrol, with the help of Crews and teachers in charge, makes sure students are able to cross safely at the entrance and exits at the school.

“I worked with teachers to make sure safety patrol knows the rules and how we can coordinate crossing. I like the kids,” Crews said.

That’s apparent, as she goes above her duties, said administrative assistant Chris Gray. 

“She’s not just a crossing guard, she loves kids and the school,” she said. “This is her family. She really cares about the kids.”

So much so that, Gray said, Crews comes early when there are orchestra and choir rehearsals before school so she can safely cross the musicians and even give candy bars during the holidays to the safety patrol. She also said that as teachers need items, such as one teacher who re-uses plastic bags that are used for newspapers, she brings them in and puts them in their faculty boxes.

PTA President Amber Marzelewski said that Crews’ dedication goes beyond making sure cars stop.

“When kindergarten has a safety unit in school, she comes in to teach them how to safely cross at the crosswalk so from that point on, they know the rules,” she said. “She makes a stop sign with them. My son still has his.”

Crews said during the winter, if she can get to the school early, she helps the custodian with shoveling snow and using ice melt in front of the school and where the students stand before crossing.

“I’m here for the kids. That’s the highlight. I like to converse with them and hear the latest ideas and listen to their stories. I know them by sight and who belongs where. They know me and thank me,” she said, adding that oftentimes during the holidays they bring notes, candy and hot chocolate in appreciation.

She said that she’s now crossing students of parents or aunts and uncles she crossed years back. She recently was thanked at a grocery store by a former student — now an adult — who reminded her that she crossed him when he was a student.

“I inherited the job from my husband, who took it on as a retired school teacher,” she said, adding that when he became ill she substituted for him until they put her on the payroll and she took his position. “I’ve seen the road become more busy, we’ve painted the curbs red so cars don’t line up and park to block the view, and we’ve put up signs in front of the school so one area is for busses and the other for cars.”

Although she will say it’s “a little hot” in the summer and she “hates it when it’s snowing and the wind is blowing and it roars in the trees,” she says her “best day is when everything just falls into place.”

“Then I know I’ve done my job and the kids are safe,” she said.