LARGO -- The children who attend Ridgecrest Elementary School and who live south of Ulmerton Road made a safe crossing of the busy highway to their first day of school Tuesday, carefully shepherded by crossing guards.
Except for a few days at the end of the last school year, it was the first time crossing guards were at the intersection of Ulmerton Road and 119th Street, despite seven years of pleading by parents for this kind of protection.
Pressure brought by the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views, led to a careful survey of the situation by Brian Smith, the County Planning Director, and close attention by Barbara Sheen Todd, a member of the County Commission, the only member of the board to take a demonstrated interest in the problem.
The campaign for safety also led to a meeting July 13 at Shiloh Missionary Church, the aim of which was to inject a "good feeling, we care" atmosphere into the situation.
Instead, county and school officials heard from Ridgecrest parents of school children who wanted safety for their children.
Susan Latvala, the chairwoman of the County Commission, recommended that the little children walk an extra half mile to avoid crossing Ulmerton Road at 119th Street because, as others defined it, the crossing was "too dangerous for crossing guards."
When the perilous situation was brought to public attention by the Gazette late in the school year, Largo Police Chief Lester Aradi made a move to put crossing guards at the intersection.
Actually, the site is not in Largo jurisdiction, but Aradi put child safety ahead of jurisdictional considerations. At that point, Sheriff Everett Rice, also attuned to the peril the children were in, put crossing guards there. That was in the last week of the school year.
The School Board apparently took no interest or concern in the situation and has yet to be heard from in terms of ensuring safety for the children that attend a county school.
While Ulmerton is a busy highway at 119th Street, it is no more busy or dangerous than the intersection of Clearwater-Largo Road and Eighth Avenue in Largo.
Ulmerton is a four-lane highway, Clearwater Largo Road is six lanes; 119th Street is sparsely traveled, Eighth Avenue is heavily traveled.
Crossing guards are at the Clearwater-Largo Road and Eighth Avenue intersection to help children, on their way to Largo Middle School, cross safely. Of course, the Middle School children are older than the tykes at Ridgecrest Elementary School.
That Ulmerton Road and 119th Street was "too dangerous for crossing guards" one observer said was an idea that was too absurd for words. That person pointed out that walking along Ulmerton Road to get to the Pinellas Trail, a quarter mile away and the recommended crossing point, was even more dangerous. No sidewalk is there.
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