Austintown school crossing guard Darcy Fletcher was doing her usual thing on Thursday, Nov. 8, letting buses out on Idaho Road at the former Falcon Drive. Her normal routine was broken up after a vehicle struck her and sent her to the hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
According to Austintown Director of Curriculum Dan Bokesch, she had stopped traffic to let the buses out when a second vehicle struck the vehicle she had stopped, driving that vehicle into Fletcher and knocking her to the ground.
"We are not sure if she struck her head on the vehicle, or when she hit the ground, or both," Bokesch said.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Austintown Trustee Lisa Oles broke precedence in her usual professional dress at township meetings on Nov. 13 and came in jeans and a T-shirt. Her purpose was to bring awareness to the Team Darcy T-shirts made to help Austintown school crossing guard Darcy Fletcher, who was struck by a vehicle while letting buses out on Idaho Road.
She was rushed to the hospital and has since been moved from intensive care into a regular recovery room. Bokesch and other school officials paid her a visit and said she is progressing.
"We're pleased with where she is right now in her recovery," Bokesch said. "It could have been a lot worse."
When the community learned of Fletcher's situation, a support group quickly formed to help her. Fletcher used to work for Leer, the company that made seats for General Motors vehicles. She was among the many who lost their job when Leer closed up. She got the job of crossing guard, but the 43-year-old doesn't have any health care insurance.
At last Tuesday's Austintown Township meeting, Trustee Lisa Oles stepped away from her usual professional fashions and wore jeans and a yellow T-shirt. The T-shirts were put together by Jones and Associates print shop to begin raising funds for Fletcher to help her with the bills. The T-shirts have a school bus stopped by a crossing guard on the front and on the back says, "Drivers Aware Recognize Crossing guards and Youth," using the letters D-A-R-C-Y.
The DARCY committee is looking into various fundraisers including an event at Chuck E. Cheese that will be combined with a food drive.
Shortly after the accident, Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca and Bokesch held a meeting with all the crossing guards to discuss the incident.
"They made a lot of suggestions that we are working on now," Colaluca said.
As for the people living around the school campus, there has been a surge of residents coming up to crossing guards and telling them how appreciated they are. Last week an elderly lady approached the crossing guards with a gift of hot coffee and doughnuts.
"She said she appreciated us and wanted us to know that," said crossing guard Becky George. "It made me start to cry."
Bokesch said the crossing guards have a hard job, but everything they do is right. Still, they get a lot of grief from motorists who are in a hurry and don't like stopping.
At the township meeting, a brief discussion was held about enforcement around the schools. Trustee Jim Davis said he spoke with police Chief Bob Gavalier on the matter.
"I've had several complaints about traffic around our schools and we will be stepping up enforcement in our school zones," Davis said. "It's a shame that Fletcher was injured, but it could have been a lot worse. I'm asking everyone to please be careful around the schools."
Trustee Dave Ditzler agreed and added, "Please respect the law and the people trying to get our kids safely across the street."
On Nov. 14, school officials met to release a notice on traffic safety. Bokesch said the district is asking motorists who have been using Idaho Road as a cut-through to take a different route because of the congestion between the normal heavy school traffic and the construction of the new buildings.
"If you have no reason to be near Idaho Road, in front of Watson Elementary and Frank Ohl Intermediate, or on Raccoon Road near AMS and the 911 Park between 7 to 9 a.m. and 2:15 to 4:15 p.m., then please find an alternate route to get to your destination," Bokesch said.
He said for those who have to be in the area, he asks they adhere to the following rules. Be alert and cautious, do not drop students off on the road, delay picking up Watson and Frank Ohl students until 3:30 to 3:45 p.m., do not park in Lloyd Loop to wait on a child, and adhere to the 20 mile-per-hour speed limit when the school lights are flashing, and a 10 mile-per-hour speed limit when driving on campus roads.
"Above all, please help us protect our students by exercising as much caution as possible and by respecting our crossing guards as they act to protect our students as well," Bokesch said.
As for Team DARCY, anyone wishing to help out or donate can contact Richele Tharpe at 330-792-7551 or Tammy Johns at 330-951-8989.