The village couldn’t crack the Catholic school principals, so now Tom Barwin, the village manager, is planning to meet with the pastors of three of Oak Park’s Catholic parishes in an effort to make the schools spring for the cost of crossing guards.
Barwin has a theory that he articulated in last week’s Journal: “The pastors have a broader, I think, community-wide engagement mission. I’m confident that we will be able to work out a solution.”
Given the way Catholic hierarchy works, we’d just bet all the principals have already spoken to the men in charge back at the rectory and that the common line, “Our budgets for this year are already set and they’re very tight,” is not coincidental.
Nor do we doubt that the statement is true. The village, which already worked its magic in having the District 97 elementary schools ante up for crossing guards, wants Ascension School on East Avenue to pay $6,500 for each of the four intersections currently patrolled by the village’s third-party service. As we have been told multiple times, do the math and that adds up to $26,000, which would buy you a full-time teacher in a Catholic School.
Working north, and both St. Edmund and St. Giles each have one intersection they want the village to continue covering.
Tight municipal budgets across the communities our papers cover have seen multiple towns pushing the cost of crossing guards back to schools. It hasn’t been pretty, either.
Perhaps Barwin, who has an easy, persuasive way, can convince the pastors to dip into the collection plate, or, perhaps, eliminate a charitable program or two in order to pay for crossing guards.
Our advice to the village is to write this year off as a charitable expense and start negotiating now for next year. Help the Catholic schools figure out how they can cover more corners with teachers, parent volunteers and even older students. And consider compromising. The intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren can be particularly challenging to cross. Might require a stop light or a highly compensated Andy Frain usher.