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FCPD removes crossing guards for Herndon, Fort Belvoir and potentially Vienna schools

A crossing for Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 4:20 p.m. on 3/25/2024) Schools in Vienna, Herndon and Fort Belvoir have or are at risk of losing their crossing guards due to budget constraints facing the Fairfax County Police Department.

The Vienna Town Council and Mayor Linda Colbert were informed at a recent work session that the county will no longer provide crossing guards for any schools in the town’s limits because of a lack of funding, Councilmember Howard Springsteen shared at the council’s meeting on Monday (March 18).

The nine affected crossings would instead need to be covered by the Vienna Police Department, which doesn’t have sufficient staffing to handle the added duties, according to Springsteen, whose comments were first reported by Patch.

“Schools are not our responsibility. It’s a county responsibility,” he said. “…I know the mayor’s been working on this and the council’s been pretty upset about this. We’re working on that, but people need to be aware of some of the issues we deal with behind the scenes.”

Vienna isn’t the only place affected. The FCPD said it would also eliminate coverage for one crossing each in Herndon and Fort Belvoir, according to a letter from Vienna Police Chief Jim Morris to Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis.

The Herndon Police Department says it was notified late last fall that FCPD was removing its officers from a crossing at Herndon Elementary School, effective Jan. 1. Because only one spot was affected, the town was able to fill the gap.

“Herndon does not have a school crossing guard program, but we take the safety of our kids very seriously,” HPD spokesperson Lisa Herndon said. “Unlike the Town of Vienna, which has been left with multiple vacancies as a result of the crossing guards being removed, we have only one crossing and have managed to cover it with patrol officers each day.”

Fort Belvoir has also taken over crossing guard duties at its on-base school, according to March 19 memo from the FCPD to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The crosswalk covered by an FCPD officer was across Meeres Road in front of Fort Belvoir Upper School and the Child Development Center, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs told FFXnow.

The Army installation says it’s “currently working with FCPD, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Fort Belvoir Elementary school leadership to discuss a way ahead.”

“As we gather more information, Fort Belvoir will be in a better position to decide on the best way to ensure crosswalk safety,” Fort Belvoir Public Affairs said. “The safety of our children remains our number one priority.”

The FCPD indicated in a statement to FFXnow that discussions about how to handle the school crossings in Vienna are still in the preliminary stages.

“Given the primary jurisdiction responsibilities afforded to the Town of Vienna for law enforcement and public safety, the FCPD has engaged the Vienna Police Department in preliminary discussions surrounding school crossing coverages,” the department said. “As our conversations continue, all school crossing coverages will be handled by the FCPD.”

The service reductions stem from an evaluation of all school crossings that the FCPD conducted in the spring, summer and fall of 2023, FCPD Operations Support Bureau Commander Major Dalton Becker told Morris in a Dec. 18 message.

The evaluation was intended to determine whether the crossings “continue to meet the minimum standards required to qualify as a school crossing location” and whether the FCPD can continue to staff them.

According to the letter, the county department identified nine crossings in Vienna that it’ll no longer handle when the next school year starts in August:

  • Cunningham Park Elementary School — Kingsley Road and Park Street, Park Street and Adahi Road)
  • Louise Archer Elementary School — the Nutley Street intersections at Orchard Street and Knoll Street)
  • Marshall Road Elementary School — Marshall Road and Delilah Drive, Kingsley Road and Ware Street)
  • Vienna Elementary School — Center Street and Locust Street, Cottage Street and Locust Street
  • Thoreau Middle School — Cedar Lane and Bucknell Park

James Madison High School serves Vienna residents, but it’s located just outside town limits and doesn’t have crossing guards, according to Springsteen.

In his Jan. 8 letter to Davis, Morris said expecting the Vienna department to staff the crossings “during two of the busiest calls for service times of the day is not a realistic request.” The VPD’s day squad is fully staffed with four patrol officers, one or two motor officers and a supervisor.

The VPD doesn’t plan to start a crossing guard program or use its officers to cover the crossings, Morris wrote, noting that he’d conferred with Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton. He noted that this isn’t the first time that the VPD has been asked to take over school crossings:

In the past we have been asked to do this by several different district station commanders, and we have refused each time. Vienna residents are full Fairfax County residents and pay full Fairfax County taxes; accordingly, Town Residents are entitled to all Fairfax County services, including school crossing guards for FCPS. If we were to attempt to compromise on this position, we would drastically impact the response times for police officers responding to calls for service within the Town, a service for which the Residents of the Town pay additional taxes. To selectively target the Town of Vienna to withdraw services is not appropriate.

Morris added that his department would “be glad to help” the FCPD recruit new crossing guards.

When contacted by FFXnow, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn’s office, which represents Vienna, said he anticipates hearing from residents about this and other topics at a budget town hall tonight (Wednesday). The meeting will be held in Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue) at 7 p.m.

Released on Feb. 20, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 pulled back on new spending, directing nearly all additional revenue to employee compensation and Fairfax County Public Schools. In anticipation of a tight budget year, he asked all agencies to identify up to 7% in cost reductions.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering a real estate tax rate increase of up to 4 cents. The rate and budget will be finalized on May 7.

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