By Bob Skolnik
Nearly five months after decisively rejecting a proposal to equally split school crossing guard costs with the village of Riverside, the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education gave in on July 15 and voted 4 to 2 to share the cost of six crossing guards with the village for the upcoming school year.
In February, the school board voted 6 to 1 against a similar proposal to equally split the cost of school crossing guards.
"It was a necessary vote so that we could have crossing guards in place for the first day of school," said school board member David Kodama.
Voting in favor of Kodama's motion were Lisa Gaynor, Michael O'Brien and board President Mary Rose Mangia. Voting against, albeit for different reasons, were Randy Brockway and Rachel Marrello.
Brockway voted against the motion because it called for the district not to contribute any money for lunch time crossing guards. Marrello called for the vote to be delayed, because she wanted village officials to appear before the school board and answer questions. Art Perry, who is philosophically opposed to the school district paying for crossing guards, missed the meeting, because he was on vacation.
Kodama's motion called for the school district to split the costs of before and after school crossing guards, but stated that the district would not pay anything for lunchtime crossing guards.
The majority of the school board felt that lunch time crossing guards were not needed, because the district now has a policy that any student going home for lunch must be signed out by a parent or guardian. Since the parent would be taking the child home, crossing guards are not needed at lunchtime, Kodama said.
"The children are usually accompanied by their parent at lunch time, yes," Brockway said. "But without a crossing guard, I feel as if their safe crossing is not assured because people do drive crazy."
Brockway also noted the morning kindergarten students are released from school at around lunch time.
Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said that given District 96's policy of requiring an adult to sign out children going home for lunch, he is OK with the elimination of lunch time crossing guards.
"We're not objecting to the elimination of the lunch time crossing guards," Weitzel said.
The cost of lunchtime crossing guards would have been $13,384 this year, Weitzel said, so District 96 is saving $6,692 by not agreeing to pay for lunch time crossing guards.
Under the arrangement proposed by the village and accepted by the school board, District 96 and Riverside will split the costs of five crossing guards in Riverside. The cost of a sixth Riverside crossing guard at First Avenue and Forest Avenue will be shared equally by Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208, District 96, and the village of Riverside.
Last year, District 96 contributed $17,603 or approximately 27 percent of costs for the crossing guards. In the upcoming school year, District 96 will pay the village approximately $31,800 for crossing guards, according the Zack Zayed, the director of finance and operations for District 96.
School crossing guards are part-time employees of the village of Riverside and make $12.82 an hour.
Riverside Village President Ben Sells said that he is glad that the school board finally accepted the village's proposal to equally split the cost of school crossing guards.
"I think it is the fairest way to handle the crossing guard issue, which is why our board voted the way it did," Sells said. "As we said originally, municipalities are not required to fund any crossing guards, so we felt a 50/50 split was the fairest way to handle it."