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Parent steps up as unofficial crossing guard
crossing guard pic
Marlee Caulkins volunteers to help kids cross Colorado Avenue near Dutcher Middle School after school. Caulkins decided to dedicate her time at the intersection to ensure the safety of students who needed to cross there. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

Although Dutcher Middle School cannot currently assume liability for placing a crossing guard at the “T” intersection where Colorado Avenue meets Escondido Avenue, this has not stopped parent Marlee Caulkins from volunteering to assist students cross the road nearly every day after school.

Once the dismissal bell rings at DMS, bumper-to-bumper traffic on Colorado Avenue makes it nearly impossible for homeward bound students to cross the road safely. Knowing that she was going to be waiting for her kids anyways, Caulkins has stepped up as the unofficial crossing guard for several months.

“I saw that the kids weren’t looking and cars weren’t stopping. I was afraid the kids would get hurt,” said Caulkins, whose daughter attends the middle school. “I couldn’t just sit there and watch kids almost get hurt and get frustrated when cars wouldn’t stop.”

Students appreciate Caulkins’ efforts at the crosswalk, and many have identified her as someone who will help them get across the road safely. Caulkins has even befriended two students, who are always happy to see her or make note of when she is gone.

Caulkins is still hoping to get the same reaction from a majority of the drivers.

 “Some drivers don’t want to stop and wonder why I am even trying to stop them,” reported Caulkins. “I really don’t care what their response is, because all that matters is that these kids are safe. If they are upset, they are upset. It’s just part of getting kids across safely.”  

When she contacted DMS about the potential danger of the unattended crosswalk, Caulkins was directed to Turlock Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor.

“I explained to her that the District is taking a look at all of the school sites, not just individual requests, prior to determining where to assign additional crossing guards,” wrote Trainor. “We are currently conducting this review and we expect to see some level of additional staffing in the future.”

Despite his response, Trainor applauds the efforts of Caulkins and anyone else who desires to keep children safe.

According to Caulkins, the purpose of her visit with Trainor was just to alert the District to a problem that needed to be addressed. She was told that there was no funding and that the District believes that there are more congested intersections that require the presence of a crossing guard.

“I respected his response, but I just wanted the issue to be on his radar,” reported Caulkins.  

Caulkins has definite plans to assist students cross the street until the District decides to implement an official crossing guard or stop sign at the intersection. However, the parent will no longer be able to serve students in the area who need to cross when her seventh grade daughter leaves DMS.

“I know that when my daughter moves on to a different school, there will still be kids here who will need to cross the street,” said Caulkins. “Hopefully, there will be crossing guard or at least a stop sign before then.”

Until then, Caulkins hopes to at least obtain a hand held stop sign to assist her crossing endeavors. For now, Caulkins just puts her hands out and “hopes to God” that the cars will stop.

“In the end, the kids need to get across the road safely,” concluded Caulkins. “That is all that matters.”