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What does it take to land a crossing guard? These parents say it shouldn’t take a tragedy | CBC News

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A close call last year at a northwest Toronto crosswalk left Kiki Li and her son Jian looking for action from the city so they would no longer feel afraid walking to and from his school — but over a year later, they’re still waiting.

Li and her son were on their way to Joyce Public School on a March morning when a car turning onto Caledonia Road nearly hit the pair.

“I’m still afraid to walk to school sometimes,” said Li. “My little boy is still scared….Every time we go to the intersection, we are still kind of nervous.”

There is no crossing guard at the intersection of Caledonia Road and Playfair Avenue used by dozens of children who live in the Lotherton Pathway community. On a morning earlier this week, CBC Toronto observed several cars drive through the intersection at full speed without stopping, regardless of the crosswalk lights — something local parents say is common. 

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It isn’t just families with children attending Joyce Public School that use the crosswalk. Those attending Regina Mundi Catholic School cross at Caledonia Road too.

Kiki Li and Jian Li say they are nervous crossing the street after nearly being hit a year ago. They tell CBC they want a crossing guard at Caledonia Road and Playfair Ave.
Kiki Li and her son Jian say they are nervous crossing the intersection of Caledonia Road and Playfair Avenue after nearly being hit a year ago. They’ve been hoping for a crossing guard there for over a year now. (Clara Pasieka/CBC)

After the incident, Li noticed her son asking his dad to drive him to school, fearful of another near-miss or worse. That’s when she knew she had to do something.

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With help from staff at the school, Li filled out an application with the city for a crossing guard at the intersection in April of 2022. She also began talking to several parents with children and grandchildren who rely on the crosswalk. Several contacted the city, Ward 8 Councillor Mike Colle and school board trustees, adding their voices to the chorus calling for a crossing guard.

School board trustees support move

Among those who want to see a crossing guard at the intersection are Toronto District School Board Trustee for the area Shelley Laskin and the Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee Maria Rizzo.

Laskin sent an email to the city this month asking staff to “consider moving one of the current crossing guards at one of the other less busy intersections to the intersection of Caledonia and Playfair.”

The city says it is reviewing the feasibility of that option and says it would also entail the “endorsement of the local councillor and associated schools whose guards are being relocated.” 

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Many caregivers who use the intersection and spoke to CBC Toronto say that’s a temporary solution, but one they’d like to see. 

Families cross Caledonia rd
Some parents say they sometimes wait until a bigger group has built up before crossing the road because cars often do not stop for the lights. (Clara Pasieka/CBC)

When asked why the community has been forced to wait so long, the city said a minimum of a year-long wait was normal for the program, which sees about 100 new applications a year.

A spokesperson for the city, Hakeem Muhammad, said in a statement, “The provision of a school crossing guard depends on budget approval [and] availability of funding and the technical analysis results and typically starts one year after the submission deadline.”

City to analyze intersection in mid-May

Muhammad says the city expects to analyze this intersection in mid-May. The community could have a crossing guard in September depending on results of the analysis and if funding is available, he says.

But contract negotiations could slow that down.

Mohammad says both companies who provide school crossing guard services, Carraway Inc and A.S.P. Inc,  have contracts expiring this summer and implementing new locations is on hold as the city looks to secure a new contract. 

The city added it is working proactively with the office of Coun. Colle and the Joyce Public School community, providing updates.

Roxanne Ashton and Shoneaca Simmons, two parents who have been fighting for a crossing guard, cross the street with their children.
Roxanne Ashton and Shoneaca Simmons cross Caledonia Road together with their children. (Clara Pasieka/CBC)

CBC Toronto provided multiple opportunities to Colle for comment, but did not receive a response by deadline. Emails sent by his staff to the city and then shared with the community, however, indicate Colle supports the request.

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Shoneaca Simmons, who has three children attending the public school, said any delay is too long and that the city’s funding caveats are inappropriate. 

“What will it take for them to put a crossing guard? Someone getting into an accident? Someone dying?” she asked. “The city should put more funding into having crossing guards so our kids can be safe.”

She says it is unfair that several smaller streets and crosswalks with less use in nearby neighbourhoods have crossing guards.

 “We are not going to stop until we get it,” said Simmons.

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