Not-so-large, but in charge

Ten years old may seem a little young to have a before-school job, but at Dunedin Elementary 21 students don’t mind arriving early to raise the flags and help keep other students safe. They’re members of the safety patrol.

Published September 12, 2006

DUNEDIN — It’s 8:15 a.m., and before school starts, fifth-grader Kendra Smith is standing at the base of the flagpole.

As a member of the school safety patrol, Kendra, 10, has the responsibility of raising the U.S. and Florida flags every morning and lowering them  in the afternoon.

“Can you help me?” Kendra  asks Kelsey Propst, 10, another patrol member who shares flag duty.
Carefully, the American flag is removed from its triangle folds. The two make sure the state flag is put on next — both flags never touching the ground. The girls hoist the flags to the top of the pole, grab their books and make their way to their patrol post 50 feet from the flagpole.

These are just some of the duties that come with being part of Dunedin Elementary School’s 21-member safety patrol unit. The patrol program is geared to instill in students a sense of responsibility, leadership and service to the community. The national AAA Safety Patrol program is more than 75 years old.

“I like the being-in-charge feeling. It just feels good,” Kendra said.

Susan Burdewick is the teacher sponsor for the patrol group. Patrol members are selected based on teacher recommendations. The group meets twice a week during fifth-grade lunch.

Burdewick trained eight fourth-graders last school year for the patrol and recruited 13 more students  this school year to fill the other slots.

At Dunedin Elementary, patrol responsibilities include opening car doors, raising the flags and making sure no one is running in the hallways. Burdewick said she wants her patrol members to be responsible for their posts and to ensure that students observe school policies.

“I love following the rules,” Burdewick said.

Seth White, 10, likes being a patrol member because he gets to open car doors, and it also allows him to get to school early.

His post in front of the office is perfect. This is the student drop-off area. Seth said he gets to school early — by 8:15 most mornings.

There are three safety patrol members assigned with him to the student drop-off area on the north side of the school. Wearing lime-green-colored belts with the words “safety patrol” in black letters, these students also stand out and serve as role models to their peers.

“I like doing it because sometimes people don’t think I am in fifth grade, but when I’m wearing my belt, they know I’m in fifth grade,” Seth said.

Some parents also take notice of the pint-sized patrol members.

Michelle Rios walks her son, Zachary, 5, to his kindergarten class every morning. She said that patrol members, assisting crossing guards, help her at the crosswalk in front of the school. Rios said she thinks the safety patrol program helps students build self-confidence.

Would Rios want her son to be a patrol member?

“Well, yeah, it would be a good thing,” she said. “You can’t be a bad kid and be a safety patrol (member).”
Lisa Wallace, 10, is the safety patrol captain. Her responsibilities include making rounds to the patrol posts — checking that the patrol members are not late. So far, she has not had any problems with patrol members shirking their duties.

“If it happens a lot of times, I guess I can talk to them,” Lisa said. “I just like it because I have to check on people and make sure they are fine.”