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Off guard

Off guard

May 21, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Jackson school fixture quits the crosswalk after 25 years

"I get to go on a hike tomorrow," a student at Jackson Elementary proudly tells a crossing guard while strolling across North Eighth Street West.

"Oh, I guess you get to go on a hike," the guard says in response to the child, who's heading home on a sunny May afternoon.

This specific crossing guard, 78-year-old Juanita Bouchard, has 25 years worth of these micro interactions with grade schoolers.

'Break up the day'

Bouchard lives on rural Burma Road and said the gig is a good way to get out and about.

"Can you think of a better reason to come into town every day?" she said rhetorically. "You get to come in for a bit and break up the day."

She started as a crossing guard in 1991, the same year her granddaughter was born in a house across the street from the elementary school.

4,400 days

Since then, she's stepped out in front of moving traffic on more than 4,400 days, armed only with a stop sign.

From time to time, she's even backed up into a few cars while walking backward.

"But I've never been knocked down or injured," she said.

She's missed only a few school days during her decades of work. Substitute crossing guards are typically on call in case of absences, but Bouchard's reliability means that her rare absences can catch the school off guard.

On the day Bouchard's mother died, the school principal took up her post.

Bouchard was raised in Nevada but moved to Riverton in 1956, and all seven of her children graduated from Riverton High School.

During Bouchard's time as a crossing guard, she's had a few of her 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren attend Jackson, giving time for daily interactions with her family.

And by the time spring rolls around each year, she's also had a chance to become fairly familiar with other students as well.

As the school bell rings and a horde of children flows out the doors, Bouchard's eyes take an inventory of the traffic, preparing to sort some students across North Eight Street West and others across Jackson Avenue.

"You don't remember all of them, but you at least try to remember which way people are going so you can be prepared," she said.

Bouchard has to act as a sort of human railroad diverter, a task that's harder at the beginning of each school year when she doesn't know which direction each kid is walking.

That's also a good opportunity to teach the students some basic traffic safety.

Bouchard makes sure the kids stop at the intersection, never walk in front of her or cross the street until all vehicles stop.

"Cars don't always stop just because I'm standing here," she said.

Now, after 25 years, Bouchard is calling it quits. She'll retire from her intersection at the end of the school year.

"They'll find somebody to do my job," she said. "I might come up every once in a while to make sure they're doing a good job."

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