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Students from Seoul American Elementary School on Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, cross 8th Army Drive on Monday afternoon. Crossing guards help the almost 2,500 students on Yongsan Garrison to and from school. Next year, Area II Support Activity’s budget has no money for the guards.
Students from Seoul American Elementary School on Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, cross 8th Army Drive on Monday afternoon. Crossing guards help the almost 2,500 students on Yongsan Garrison to and from school. Next year, Area II Support Activity’s budget has no money for the guards. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Funding for school crossing guards has been cut from next year’s Area II budget, leaving school officials, parents and military leaders seeking alternatives to keep ushering students safely between home and class, military and school officials said.

“It’s a huge concern,” said Lara Lynn Lewis, Parent-Teacher Organization president at Seoul American Elementary School on Yongsan. “This is a big problem.”

Hiring 13 part-time guards to help safeguard students going to and from elementary, middle and high schools on Yongsan costs about $95,000 a year, said Steve Davis, Area II Support Activity spokesman. Area II, not the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, pays for the guards.

Next year, that money will be gone, said Area II commander Col. Ron Stephens, who has directed his staff to work with parents and school officials to find a solution.

The Yongsan schools are on 8th Army Drive, also home to the base’s fire department, buildings housing after-school programs, two fast-food restaurants, the Dragon Hill Lodge and Main Post Chapel. Up to three times daily, military police and crossing guards help nearly 2,500 students across the road.

Both crossing guards and police are vital, according to parents like Lewis: Police control the vehicle traffic, crossing guards manage crowds on the sidewalks.

“Without the crossing guards, there’s no one to run interference for the kids,” Lewis said.

“Funding is an issue throughout the Army, and Korea is no exception,” according to a written statement from Area II Deputy Commander Tillman D. Moses.

“We continue to address options to meet the needs of our military community, just one instance of which is crossing-walk guards.

“We are looking at alternatives … for example, reducing the current number of crossing walk guards from 13” while “ensuring that critical crossing points retain coverage,” Moses stated.

DODDS-Korea spokesman Peter Grenier said options might include finding a sponsor to help pay for the guards or asking military police to adjust their locations to increase efficiency.

But Lewis said she worried private sponsorship wouldn’t be sustained down the road and that a volunteer program wouldn’t work. She said parents would be the most likely candidates to volunteer, but they have their own children to care for in the morning or after school. Also, depending on volunteers in a place where many careers involve deployments and temporary duty assignments could prove problematic, she said.

In the past two months, the Osan Air Base elementary school started using such volunteers, according to principal Linda Kidd.

Maj. David Smith, an Osan spokesman, said the school has only two volunteers. He added that officials have put up speed-control signs and silhouette signs of soldiers reminding drivers to slow down.

“The silhouettes seem to be making a difference,” he said.

Smith also pointed out that Osan is much smaller than Youngsan and the elementary school is tucked away from main roads.

Osan’s high school never has had a crossing guard program, but the staff is paying close attention to the Yongsan situation, said Superintendent Marie Cullen.

Crossing guards aren’t needed at Humphreys American Elementary School, which opened three years ago, according to principal Donna Kacmarski.

For now, Lewis said, she’s awaiting other suggested solutions.

“It’s up to the district, I guess,” she said.

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