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Metro Avenue parents want crossing guard

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Residents near a Forest Hills school want a crossing guard to help their children safely navigate a nearby street, but officials said hiring one is not that easy.

Parents of students at the newly opened Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave., said the stretch of the thoroughfare that borders the school is too dangerous for the middle and high school kids to cross by themselves.

Parent Bill Kamen said he has almost been hit twice while helping his children cross the busy street.

“It’s scary,” he said. “And even one accident would be too many.”

Kamen petitioned police to hire a guard, thinking it would help the students and also find someone work in the tough job market.

“I would think that in this climate, a lot of people are out of work,” he said.

But according to police and the community board, several obstacles have prevented them from hiring a guard.

First, a crossing guard is not necessarily hired for a middle school´╗┐ — students attend sixth-, seventh- and ninth-grades — and is never hired for a high school, according to Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6.

“High schools don’t get crossing guards,” he said. “Because you have a middle school, though, it would qualify to get one.”

It is the NYPD’s responsibility to hire guards, but police from this precinct said they were unaware one was needed when the school year began in September and that they are currently trying to fill the position.

“We would love to have a crossing guard there,” said Capt. Christopher Tamola. “We’re doing everything we can.”

Further compounding the NYPD’s efforts is that fact they can’t just hire one person. Guards are recruited in groups. That way, the training, fingerprinting and background checks required to don a badge can be completed all at once.

“[The department] doesn’t hire guards one at a time,” Tamalo said. “Like a police department, they have a class.”

The process of hiring and training can take months, since not just anyone will be vetted to work with children.

Finally, the NYPD, would have to pay the guard. With both the city and state budgets running in the red, that does not seem like a likely outcome.

But that is little comfort for parents at the school, which has been planned for about 20 years but opened earlier this year.

“It’s hard to believe,” Kamen said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:30 pm, October 10, 2011
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