There has been ongoing concern over the safety of children using the crosswalks at Ocean Beach Elementary School located at 4741 Santa Monica Avenue.
The school is situated between two busy intersections on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, at Newport and Santa Monica avenues.
“My kids don’t even go to school here anymore,” said Wayne Simard, the lead volunteer crossing guard. “I’m just a concerned community member volunteering because basically what I want is safety for the kids.... It’s a constant struggle, but I’m always out here, Monday through Friday, 7:15 to 8:00 a.m.”
He’s been helping kids cross the street safely for nearly seven years, in a crosswalk that took nearly three years to have installed.
“People are still blowing through and speeding too much,” he added.
Mandy Havlik, a concerned parent, organized a “Traffic Safety Awareness Campaign” that was held on November 3rd of last year in front of the school. She aimed to encourage local community members to abide by the existing traffic safety laws and to donate to her campaign to purchase safety equipment, including hand-held stop signs, safety vests, and traffic safety signs for the six crosswalks and the area around the school perimeter.
Her efforts — as well as those of Simard and other concerned parents — paid off when, on November 30, mainstream media picked up the story, highlighting the dangers of speeding and distracted drivers at the intersections surrounding the school.
The following day, council representative Conrad Wear from Lori Zapf’s office contacted Simard after seeing the broadcast and discussed safety improvements with him. In the meantime, over the Christmas break, Simard purchased four body-cams for the crossing guards.
“From now on, all of the crossing guards at OB Elementary will be wearing a body-cam,” wrote Simard on a private Facebook page.
“I let [the school] know about the body-cams prior to and after I purchased them,” Simard told me. “I did it for our protection because there have been a few incidents where people have accused us of doing minor things that we have not done…video never lies.”
Simard’s mission to keep children safe hasn’t always been wholly accepted by the school’s administration. In October of 2017, he was at odds with the principal after he “took down” a transient who had exposed himself near the school.
“I didn’t hurt him or anything — I just took him down and tried to call 911. They didn’t answer, so I had to let the guy go,” he told me at the time. “The school liaison police officer came to me and told me that the principal wanted him to convey that message to me — I can’t run off homeless people [and] I can’t ask people to slow down on this street…but I care very little about politics and how things look…what I want is safety for the kids.”