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With Crossing Guards Gone, Parents Are Worried About Children's Safety

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Many children are dodging cars to get to school in Cumberland County. There is nothing new about that, but there used to be plenty of crossing guards watching out for them. Not anymore.

The early birds start crossing about 7:30 a.m., even though two middle schools on Ireland Drive do not let students inside until 8 a.m. The traffic only gets worse later. Sandra Gibson will not let her daughter cross alone. The familiar crossing guard is gone.

"It's dangerous. It really is, and it's not the only school like this," she says.

The Cumberland County commission cut 23 crossing guards to balance the budget and the students are on their own.

"They should have pulled one of the crossing guards from the senior high and put it down here for these little kids," says parent Patricia Clarke. "They need a crossing guard here. This is a very busy street."

Down the street, Douglas Byrd High does have a guard. The school system and sheriff's department put the remaining guards at schools with busy streets, lots of walkers and those with lots of motor traffic. Ireland Middle School did not make the cut.

Officials with the sheriff's department say they recognize the need for more crossing guards, but with the budget situation the way it is, they say their hands are tied.

"I'm very much concerned and will say today that I wish the county commissioners would step up to the plate, even though we're short and give us enough money to replace the crossing guards that were cut," says Cumberland County Sheriff Earl Butler.

In an agreement this spring, the commission raised property taxes to pay for needs the school system prioritized, but the crossing guards come from the sheriff's budget. Sheriff Butler says it costs about $500 a month for each guard and he says he simply does not have the money.


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