It appears crossing guards will remain a fixture in Oak Park, at least for the next school year, if a proposal by village hall can get approval by elected officials.

The village told Oak Park Elementary School District 97 last year that it no longer intended to pay for crossing guards, as it grappled with a tough budget. But on the other side, the elementary schools also said money was tight and they couldn’t pay for the service.

Village hall has been negotiating with District 97 recently, and presented a preliminary proposal that would have the village continuing to provide crossing guards, and then billing schools for the service.

Under the proposal, Oak Park would eliminate unnecessary crossing guards at certain intersections and cut the positions during school lunch hours. Changes proposed in the agreement would lop annual costs for crossing guards from $300,000 to about $170,000, said Village Manager Tom Barwin.

The change for next school year would have village hall provide guards at 23 to 24 intersections near public schools, down from 30 the previous year. And guards would be out just two hours a school day, instead of the extra hour at lunch.

Oak Park hopes that District 97 can cover the direct costs of the crossing guards, while village hall would cover any overhead. Barwin said the village still needs to figure out how the eight or nine intersections near private elementary schools would get policed.

Taxpayers could save another $30,000 if District 97 were to start completely overseeing crossing guards, because they would no longer need to pay for unemployment costs that are currently provided to the workers over the summer.

Village hall plans to seek bids for outsourcing crossing guards to determine whether more money could be saved.

District 97 board President Peter Traczyk said his board had yet to discuss the village’s idea at the start of this week, but would start that dialogue on Tuesday night. The elementary schools were still waiting on a formal proposal from the village to take up as of Tuesday.

Traczyk agreed that lunchtime crossing guards were no longer necessary because half-day kindergarten is a thing of the past. There were also some corners with guards that were redundant and unnecessary.

District 97 could be open to covering the costs of the crossing guards, depending on how the agreement is structured. But the schools would be remiss to completely take over that function, Traczyk said, as it’s something that fits more logically under the police department.

“I am taking the position, and I think my board agrees with me, that crossing guards are a public safety function, and I don’t think I could ever see them sitting at the school district,” he said.

Barwin hopes that the village board will take up the crossing guard proposal at its July 6 meeting, with the District 97 board considering the idea the following week.

Related story:

Join the discussion on social media!