Could speed bumps replace crossing guards in Carpentersville?

When Carpentersville trustees laid off five crossing guards in the spring, it was an emotionally charged decision around town and one that had ramifications for three elementary schools.

But now, the village board is mulling whether speed bumps, speed tables or roundabouts would help make up for their loss.

Last week, trustees directed staff members to study various speed-controlling devices, detail their expense and maintenance costs, show how police and fire personnel would deal with them during emergencies and how snowplows would handle them.

Trustee Paul Humpfer suggested the study, which also will examine ways to regulate parking near or on speed tables, recommend where they would be most appropriate and ensure they are spaced properly.

The board will take a vote after reviewing the study at a future board meeting. It’s unlikely the study will be complete before the start of the school year.

While it hasn’t been decided where such devices would go, Village President Ed Ritter thinks they belong in school zones. Golfview, Sunny Hill and Liberty elementary schools all lost their crossing guards as part of village spending cuts earlier this year.

“I’d been thinking about this for a while,” Ritter said, adding that he’d suggested them for Liberty a year ago but the proposal went nowhere. “I don’t think they would actually replace crossing guards but they will slow people down. The distracted driving thing is getting to be more and more of a problem, and in a school zone it could be a problem.”

Speed tables gradually increase in height above the pavement, plateau, then slope back down to the road. They can measure three inches in height and between 10 and 20 feet in length, Village Engineer Scott Marquardt said. You find them all over Chicago.

They’re made out of rubber, concrete, asphalt or brick and cost between $5,000 and $10,000 each, plus installation, if authorities hire an outside company to build them.

The discussion comes after the controversial spring vote in which parents, teachers and even top school officials — including Ken Arndt, then the superintendent of Community Unit District 300 — pleaded with the village board to leave the crossing guards alone.

In the end, the board voted 4-2 to terminate them, a move that saved $40,000 from this year’s budget and $56,000 in subsequent years. Some trustees justified the move by saying they had to watch their own budget and that District 300 and Barrington Unit District 220 should pick up the tab for crossing guards at their respective schools. The village had been footing the bill for at least 25 years.

And because both school districts were having their own budget woes, they decided they couldn’t pay for the crossing guards, either. After the vote, police said they’d try to beef up their presence at the affected schools but couldn’t guarantee it.

“We’ll still do whatever we have to do,” Carpentersville Police Cmdr. Tim Bosshart said. “(But) if a call comes in, the officers obviously got to take the call.”

Since then, parents at Sunny Hill Elementary School in District 220 teamed up with a district nurse to create the Walking School Bus, a program in which about a dozen parent volunteers will walk through the school’s neighborhood, meet with students at various “stops” and walk them to school. It starts at the beginning of the upcoming school year; the district’s educational foundation recently gave the group a $700 grant.

Carpentersville Trustee Pat Schultz, who voted to discontinue the crossing guards, holds out hope that District 300 will make something happen as well.

“I think that 300 will eventually step up to the plate, too, so that we won’t have kids just hanging out there,” she said.

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