Emily Baucum, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The first day of school brought a new beginning at Tulsa Public Schools.
The district's consolidation plan closed schools, shuffled students and teachers, even changed bus routes -- and crossing guards helped families navigate all those changes.
The guard program did have some first-day hiccups Monday morning. What many people may not know: the program's paid for by the city -- and also had to adapt to a changing school district.
Sometimes the first friendly face a new kid sees is George Cozine's.
"That's the reason why I give them a high five. It keeps them concentrating on me rather than their friends who want to run around and play," Cozine said.
The city of Tulsa shells out $300, 000 a year for the crossing guard program.
"That is with part-time employees. We buy safety supplies. Do background checks," said Mark Brown, the Traffic Operations Manager for the City of Tulsa.
A team of 38 guards keeps students safe. Because of recent budget cuts -- each school now just has one.
At schools like Patrick Henry Elementary -- Cozine patrols busy 41st Street.
But at a neighborhood school like Hoover Elementary -- the lone guard works a few blocks away on 21st Street. It's up to parents to monitor their own driving and look out for kids.
"The principal told me today that the school cannot direct traffic. They can't tell you you're not supposed to park here," said Hoover Elementary parent Mandy Vavrinak.
Now that 14 schools are closed -- the city shuffled some of its crossing guards to new sites. They now patrol three additional middle schools.
"Just a safety issue. Kids in middle school are still sixth, seventh graders. How soon is soon enough - that we entrust a child to cross the street by themselves," Brown said.
With so many changes inside schools -- Cozine says his job is as constant as the traffic.
"No it stays the same basically. The basic thing we do is make sure the kids are safe and get them across the street," he said.
The city's always looking for alternate guards who can fill in for regulars who are out sick. That way every intersection will be staffed every day.
Parents -- if there's ever a problem at your crosswalk – you can call 918-591-4283.