Web Extra!

The Riverside District 96 school board Tuesday night rebuffed a request by village government to completely fund crossing guards beginning in the fall of 2010, voting unanimously against the measure.

Nancy Jensen, president of the District 96 board, stated that funding for crossing guards off school property rests firmly on the municipal authority and that “expending education funds for this purpose would be a mistake.”

“We would like to support and help the village through their difficult financial times, but we as a board believe the responsibility for pedestrian safety on village streets is a public safety responsibility of the municipal government,” Jensen said.

During their budget discussions last year, the
Riverside village board proposed slashing its funding for crossing guards, who serve primarily to cross school children across village streets and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks in the morning, at lunch time and in the afternoons.

Crossing guards cost the village about $83,000 per year. District 96 currently contributes $17,000 to the village to help fund the crossing guard program.

In the face of a 2010 budget deficit, village trustees proposed cutting the crossing guard funding entirely and asking District 96 to collaborate on an arrangement by which the village would still supervise crossing guard operations but the school district would pay for them.

“It is true that the school district’s financial condition is excellent, because six years ago, community members in
Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield worked hard and passed a referendum for the education fund,” Jensen said. “And, since then, the board has carefully managed those funds to support our educational mission. As a board, we have to look to and protect the financial future of the district.”

On Monday night at the
Riverside village board meeting, Trustee Mark Shevitz called upon the district to accept the proposal. Referencing Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson’s salary and the district’s ample operating reserve, Shevitz said, he asked for District 96 to share the burden, saying, “The safety of school children is a community responsibility.”

“I hope they meet with us in the middle,” he added.

But the resolution passed by the District 96 board states that while the district will continue to “provide crossing assistance in crosswalks adjacent to school property,” it “will not extend this provision to non-school property.”

District staff members and, at Hauser Junior High, school children serve as crossing guards for crosswalks adjacent to school property, according to Lamberson. The district does pay for a village-supplied crossing guard at
Ames School.

If the crossing guard program is cut by the village for 2010-11, Lamberson said, the district would continue to use staff members at crosswalks adjacent to school property and find another solution at