Compared to the cars and trucks blowing past her at 80 km/h, Diana Inouye and her stop sign are quite small indeed, but for pedestrians at the corner of the Pat Bay Highway and Beacon Ave., she is an essential presence each school day.
Inouye works as an educational assistant for children with special needs at Sidney Elementary, but for the last 18 or 19 years (she forgets exactly when she started), Inouye has been at the intersection half an hour before and after school to ensure students from Sidney, Parkland, North Saanich, and Stelly’s get to where they’re going in a safe and orderly manner.
“We’ve got a lot of students riding bikes and skateboards,” said Inouye. “They [also] rollerblade, so we found there was a need, especially for the younger students, to get across safely.”
According to Inouye, the biggest danger comes from drivers who run red lights or accelerate onto the highway without noticing pedestrians. Some students, particularly older ones, also run afoul of the rules, but Inouye said that “once they see that you are there, they tend not to do as many illegal things.”
“She’s such a star,” said Tom Vickers, principal of Sidney Elementary. “Rain, sleet, snow, wind, she’s out there every morning and after school. She’s the only one that is willing to do it because it is kind of a stressful area. Like everything she does at the school, she does it with 100 per cent dedication and passion to make sure kids are safe.”
Vickers said that he and Inouye have been trying for years to get the crosswalk across Beacon Ave. repainted, as the lines have faded from years of wear and tear. He said the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, who is responsible for the area, “keeps passing the buck.”
“We’ve gone through so many different channels to try and get that repainted, and that’s been her plea for the last couple of years, and it’s kind of fallen on deaf ears.”
Vickers is happy that the Town of Sidney helps pay for her position, as she crosses anyone who arrives at the intersection, including students from other schools and cyclists from Lochside Trail.
Inouye, who has been with the district for 29 years, said that she enjoys saying good morning to people to start their day, but that she has “un-favourite parts, like when the weather is bad.”
She estimates 40-50 students come through every shift, so she has gotten to know thousands of students and parents over the years. “Sometimes parents at the end of the year will bring me a little treat or something to thank me so that’s always very nice,” but she does not do it for the reward.
“You don’t want an accident to happen in your community, no matter what school the students go to. You want to keep everybody safe. It affects everybody if something happens.”