Three private schools in Oak Park are urging the village to foot the bill for crossing guards for their respective campuses.
Since the village stopped funding crossing guards for public and private school intersections in 2010, the Catholic schools have been fending for themselves. Citing financial hardship, the village shifted that funding responsibility over to the schools, which balked at the idea.
Providing crossing guards, officials from the schools insisted, was the village's responsibility. After some back-and-forth negotiations, D97 agreed to fund crossings for its 10 schools. Those guards are provided by an outside vendor, Aurora-based Andy Frain Services, contracted through the village of Oak Park.
The village also wanted the Catholic schools to pay for its own guards. Those schools, however, argued that their budgets couldn't take on that extra cost.
Currently, St. Giles, 1034 N. Linden Ave., and St. Edmund, 200 S. Oak Park Ave., are sharing the cost of a single crossing guard. Ascension, 601 Van Buren St., however, has faculty out before and after school manning the streets.
Peter O'Leary, president of Ascension's school board, said there have been no recent talks with the village about changing its stance. O'Leary said he's had only a brief, casual conversation about the issue with President-elect Anan Abu-Taleb during the campaign. O'Leary noted that Abu-Taleb is a member of Ascension Church in Oak Park and may be more sympathetic to the school's cause. Ascension parents have setup a website detailing their crossing-guard campaign.
O'Leary said that the private schools should not be paying for crossing guards.
"This is a public-safety issue and that's something that's clearly the village's responsibility," he said. "Paying for crossing guards was not a possibility for us in terms of our budget."
The village estimates it costs around $6,500 per corner for a guard. In 2010, D97 agreed to fund 34 crossing guards for about $168,000. O'Leary said Ascension needs crossing guards at four intersections near the school, including Van Buren, Oak Park Avenue, and Garfield (or Harrison) at East Avenue. If the village also pays for the one guard for both St. Giles and St. Edmund, the total cost is $32,500.
"That's the cost of a teacher for our classrooms.
We can't be asked to pay that amount when the village can," O'Leary said.
He added that safety is the major concern for parents.
Some of the intersections near Ascension has cars zipping through, despite the presence of pedestrian signage. O'Leary said many students walk to and from school. The school did a survey of parents recently who walk with their kids to the school. Of the 168 parents who participated, more than half said they did.
With the spring elections over, O'Leary said the school will again raise the crossing guard issue with the village.