In addition to providing crossing guards for District 97’s public elementary schools, the Village of Oak Park also covers crosswalks near some parochial schools, while other private schools either have their own guards or none at all.
Talks between the village of Oak Park and District’s 97 and 200 about possibly shifting the cost of crossing guards and in-school resource officers (SROs) over to the school districts has also included the private schools.
Ascension School, 601 W. Van Buren, and St. Edmund School, 200 S. Oak Park, for instance, use crossing guards paid for by the village. Crossing guards at Svt. Giles School, 1034 N. Linden, are also covered by the village, but the school also uses students as crossing guards.
Alcuin Montessori School, 324 N. Oak Park, however, uses parent volunteers as crossing guards.
The adult guards for Oak Park’s public and private schools are assigned to street corners near the buildings, said Police Chief Rick Tanksley. They’re under the jurisdiction of the Oak Park police and are trained and supervised by the department.
Mainly civilian volunteers and retirees, they’re also union employees who have bee represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) union for more than a decade.
In River Forest, its 11 crossing guards, which are paid for by the village and are under the jurisdiction of police, also cover the crosswalks at the village’s private schools.
At St. Giles, its students have as crossing guards as far back as the 1940s, said Karen Herman DeMuro, the school’s development director. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders serve as guards.
St. Giles incurs no cost for its student guards, said DeMuro. The school’s PTO purchased the kids’ bright orange and lime green vests, rain ponchos and large plastic stop signs.
As with adult crossing guards, the St. Giles students are out there before and after school hours, patrolling the corners at Greenfield and Columbia and Greenfield and Linden. DeMuro said the kids, who are 11 and 12 years old, start their training as sixth graders, conducted by the school’s part-time traffic coordinator. That person oversees the program but is not outside with the students when they’re patrolling.
The village of Oak Park is among the few municipalities in the state funding school crossing guards and SROs, said Tanksley. The village estimates it spends nearly $600,000 on both. If a guard doesn’t show up on a particular day, Tanksley said either a parking enforcement or a community service officer is called in as a replacement before a police officer is.
And though the jurisdictions are considering sharing the cost, village officials suggested other options, including using students as crossing guards, an idea District 97 opposes.
As far as any problems or concerns from the St. Giles community about having its kids out there, DeMuro can recall none.
“Kids will be kids, but the students and their parents are trained to know when to stop at the corner and when to walk,” she said.
She noted that a former student crossing guard conducted a traffic study in 2008 for one of his science projects. That study was so well received by parents and school officials that it led to a proposal submitted by the school to the village of Oak Park recommending one-way, southbound traffic on Columbia before and after school. That proposal was approved by village trustees.
Tanksley actually recalled serving as a crossing guard when he was in grammar school, but noted that times have changed and that vehicular traffic congestion has increased significantly.