MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The PTO and parents of kids at Grahamwood Elementary School are demanding change after a beloved crossing guard was hit by a car Wednesday afternoon.
They say traffic there has been a problem for years, and their pleas for help are largely being ignored. Now, their City Council representative says he’s getting involved.
One after another, day after day, cars speed through the intersection at Faxon Avenue and North Graham Street.
“What we see regularly – regularly – is cars are not stopping,” Grahamwood PTO President Laura Rogers said.
“You will see people not paying attention, people on their cell phones, people dropping their children off in the middle of the street,” said Jennifer Keane, PTO member and mother of a fourth-grader at the school.
They say they have spent years begging city and school leaders for a solution to the safety concerns.
“We’ve had a lot of parents who have contacted the city, we’ve contacted our District 5 city councilman Worth Morgan, who is up for election. We’re trying to reach out to the county mayor’s office, we’ve reached out to the school board, we’ve had FedEx that’s tried to come in and help us get some better signage around the school to make it safer for kids,” Rogers said. “Year after year, we have parents in our administration reach out to the city. It’s just, nothing is being done.”
Their fears were recognized this week when one of their longtime crossing guards, Flora Wallace, was hit by a car as children looked on.
“We have kindergarten through fifth-grade students here who saw an accident of someone that they love, someone that they know, someone who checks in on them every day get hit by a car,” Keane said. “It was devastating. There were tears. It was very difficult for the kids to have to watch that, and this should not be going on.”
Over the years, they say some positive changes have been made, like speed bumps on Faxon Avenue. But they insist Wednesday’s accident is proof that alone isn’t enough to keep kids – and crossing guards – safe.
“We need a crossing zone here,” Rogers said. “We need flashing lights that let the drivers know that they need to slow down because crossing guards are going to be stepping out and children are going to be crossing these streets.”
In the meantime, even as Wallace recovers, parents say the children she helps every day continue to be her first priority.
“She’s in the hospital and her concern is who’s gonna be at my post tomorrow,” Keane said.
Police say the driver stayed on scene, but they didn’t respond Thursday when asked if charges will be filed.
WREG also reached out to the city and District 5 Councilman Worth Morgan for comment about the suggested safety changes.
“The City Engineering Division has made several requests for flashing lights at Grahamwood to Shelby County Schools but have received little or no response,” Morgan said by email. “I’ve discussed the issue again with our Engineering Division and with the Police Traffic Division today. The current circumstances are unacceptable, and I will be at Grahamwood after school today to better survey the situation.”
The City of Memphis Traffic and Engineering department released the following statement, saying improvements to the crossing are the responsiblity of Shelby County Schools.
“Funding for new School Zone Flashing Beacons at a school facility is the responsibility of the Shelby County School System or the Private/Charter School administration. The City of Memphis assumes full maintenance responsibility after the initial installation. Requests received by the City for School Zone Flashing Beacons at Grahamwood have all been submitted to SCS for consideration. The City of Memphis, Traffic Engineering Department works closely with SCS staff to ensure that the proper traffic control devices are in place around school buildings. We encourage all parents to direct any requests for additional enhancements to the traffic control devices and safety systems at their respective school to the school principal and the Shelby County Schools Administration. We rely on the Shelby County School system to evaluate the requests from individual parents to make sure that the School System concurs with any requested enhancements. SCS would then coordinate directly with Traffic Engineering to implement any adjustments to the School Zone traffic control devices.”