Longtime Lexington crossing guard protects kids and makes a difference
She stands in the middle of a school crosswalk on busy Clays Mill Road in Lexington. Virginia Mayes wears a yellow safety vest, holds a large red stop sign, and blows her whistle to stop traffic in front of Clays Mill Elementary School.
From 7:15 to 8:15 in the morning Miss Virginia as she’s called known ushers’ children across with a smile and a friendly, “have a good day baby.”
Two other schools, Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary and Lexington Catholic, are nearby making this a very busy place. “I’m looking this way, that-uh-way, and this away. 'Cause, see I got three schools. So, I got kids coming this away, that away, and this away.”
In 31 years as a school crossing guard, Miss Virginia says she’s never been hit by a car, but there have been many close calls. “I’m telling you I can’t even count how close I’ve come to getting hit out here.”
Just a few months ago she remembers a car going very fast ignored her standing in the middle of the crosswalk just as a 6-year-old girl was running across. “And when she runs, I see this out of the side of my face. I see he’s coming on, so I just grab her, and just ran on down the street with the baby. Her mom, oh she just went off. She just-oh my gosh Miss Virginia you just saved my daughter’s life.” The driver was going so fast Miss Virginia says they couldn’t get the license plate number.
As I was talking to Miss Virginia, we both learned from a Lexington police officer that a school crossing guard was hit by a car that morning on Polo Club Boulevard and suffered severe injuries. Later that night 73-year-old James Arthur Holland died.
Miss Virginia was upset by the news and frustrated with drivers. “Oh my Lord.”
Miss Virginia can’t say enough good things about the children she helps. “I don’t have one child that talks back or gets smart with me at Clays Mill, or Lexington Catholic, or Mary Queen. They all respect me. I guess because I’ve been here so long. And they know I’m a good person, and they know I’m gonna treat ‘em good.”
Parents like Elysa Neely who has two children at Clays Mill Elementary say they completely trust Miss Virginia. “I do. It’s paramount. I couldn’t even imagine anyone else at that crosswalk because it’s a serious street. It’s a big street. There are speeding drivers on their phones.” Neely calls Miss Virginia “an additional parent.”
Clays Mill Elementary Principal Grant Davis echoes those sentiments. He remembers the first time he saw Miss Virginia in charge of a crosswalk. “She just had a magnanimous glow about her. You just knew that she was in charge, that she was going to be the right person to take care of our kids. I just remember thinking like I don’t know if I could do that job very well.”
After working at Clays Mill Elementary, Miss Virginia heads up the road to help children crossover to Jessie Clark Middle School.
Fayette County school crosswalk guards are trained by and work for the Lexington Police Department. Public Information Officer, Sgt. Guy Miller, can’t imagine not having school crosswalk guards like Miss Virginia. “If we didn’t have them out here directing traffic, I think it would be chaos. Just look at the cars now and look how far they’re backed up. I mean it’s backed up two blocks.”
It can be very stressful, but Miss Virginia makes it a fun time for the children at her crosswalk.
Fridays are candy day. Miss Virginia hands out candy to each child. It’s just one more way she shows her love for the children, a quality she says is a requirement for being a school crosswalk guard. “You have to be a person that loves kids first of all. You have to love kids. If you don’t love kids, it’s not a job for you.”
Miss Virginia, who is in her early sixties, has no plans for retiring anytime soon. “I’m gonna work as long as the good Lord up above let me work.”
That’s welcome news to the children and their parents along Clays Mill Road.
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