Every morning last year, Frank Sapienza could be spotted directing cars and students in a reflective neon jacket amongst the bustle of early-morning traffic, ensuring that everyone crossed Salem Street safely.
Salem Street separates Bulfinch Hall, the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, and most athletic facilities from the rest of campus.
In May of this year, after ten years overseeing the busy route, Sapienza retired from his position as the Salem Street crossing guard. According to “The Eagle Tribune,” the AAA Northeast Community Traffic Safety Award program recognized Sapienza as a “traffic safety hero.”
Now, Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS) is searching for a new crossing guard.
“We have been looking for a replacement crossing guard, but so far have not had any luck hiring anyone. In the meantime, we have been posting [PAPS] Officers at the Salem Street crossing in the mornings until we find or hire a permanent replacement,” wrote Mark Leonard, Director of Campus Safety, in an email to The Phillipian.
After an accident involving the crosswalk occurred two years ago, the school installed flashing lights on Salem Street to alert cars of crossing students. Sapienza’s job was to keep everyone safe while crossing as well as to keep traffic at a steady flow.
Emerald Tan ’20 said, “I think it’s really helpful [having a traffic safety officer] because, especially in the morning, a lot of kids cross the streets and none of the cars can get by, and that happens at every intersection… I feel bad for the cars when I am a pedestrian and there is a huge line of cars and I know that no one is going to stop.”
Abhinav Tadikonda ’20 agreed with Tan about the convenience and importance of having a crossing guard.
“The crossing guard really helps because they can direct traffic and it makes our lives go so much smoother. There’s no hassle of trying to decide when to go or when to wait, and it just makes getting to class so much faster,” Tadikonda said.
Donald Rzeppa, Public Safety Dispatcher, is one of the PAPS Officers temporarily posted at Salem Street.
“In my 22 years in the public safety industry, I have had many opportunities for conducting a safe crosswalk. I really love assisting all students, faculty, and staff at the Salem Street crosswalk. My favorite part of the job is seeing everyone and saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning’ and wishing everyone a nice day. Seldom do I have a chance to see all of our community, and it helps me get to know whom I am helping,” wrote Rzeppa in an email to The Phillipian.
Wesley Maloney ’22 is an active skateboarder on campus who appreciates having a crossing guard.
“When coming to classes by skateboard, the officer is super helpful. He presses the button [for the flashing lights] and makes sure we can cross safely,” said Maloney.
In the mornings during rush hour, Rzeppa makes sure that cars get moving. At 3:00 p.m., Rzeppa moves back to his dispatch desk to help the community in other ways.
“The only obstacle I can think of is keeping a balance of assisting students so they may get to class on time and not having a large traffic backup,” wrote Rzeppa.
Emily Smith ’22 and Tadikonda both enjoy greeting the crossing guard in the mornings.
“The officer on Salem Street makes sure that we get from Point A to B safely. He is really nice, and always says hello in the mornings,” said Smith.
“A lot of people just look down on the paths and don’t really say hi, but he keeps the energy light and is always smiling and saying, ‘Have a good day,’ which is awesome. He keeps my day positive,” said Tadikonda.
Daniela Velasquez ’22, like Smith and Tadikonda, welcomes the help of the crossing guards on Salem Street.
Velasquez said, “The officer is super friendly and always greets us and makes sure we are safe when crossing.”
PAPS has not yet hired a permanent crossing guard, but they are currently looking for one.
Rzeppa wrote, “I encourage all to say hello and when we are present, and please press the button for the flashing lights at all crosswalks.”