Dist. 21, Buffalo Grove at loggerheads over crossing guards
In a dispute over whether municipalities or school districts should pay for crossing guards, the Village of Buffalo Grove announced it will no longer provide crossing guards for three intersections in Wheeling Township Elementary District 21.
Buffalo Grove Village Manager Dane Bragg says District 21 owes the village $24,000 for providing crossing guards at the three district intersections for the past two school years.
But District 21 Communications Specialist Kara Beach says it's the village's responsibility to make sure students get to school safely.
"From our perspective, we have other villages that provide crossing guards, so this would be a change in practice," Beach said. "It's a public safety issue that should be managed by the police and the village."
Beach says the District 15 board of education and the Buffalo Grove village board never met to discuss costs of the crossing guards.
"The bills just started coming in," she said.
Bragg says there were conversations with District 21 officials via email, over the phone and in person, though.
The three intersections include Arlington Heights Road and Bernard Drive near Longfellow Elementary School and Cooper Middle School, Raupp Boulevard and Golfview Terrace near Kilmer Elementary School and Anthony Road and Cambridge Drive near Tarkington Elementary School.
Parents received robocalls and emails from District 21 around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday notifying them that Buffalo Grove would no longer be providing crossing guards.
District 21 parent Margaret Hulligan has a 5th grade student at Longfellow Elementary School and a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School.
She says parents from Longfellow have already established their own contingency plan put together over Facebook in case there are no crossing guards at Arlington Heights Road and Bernard Drive Monday.
"Somebody put out a post saying that until this is resolved, they're willing to be a crossing guard, and other parents are stepping up too," Hulligan said.
The Village of Buffalo Grove decided to begin charging District 21, Kildeer-Countryside Elementary District 96 and Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary District 102 for crossing guard services in 2013 as part of a cost-sharing model to help save money in an already tight budget. Bragg says Districts 96 and 102 have paid the fees for the past two years.
He says the village notified District 21 that they would be billed for crossing guards at the three intersections in 2013, but the district refused to pay after the 2013-2014 school year.
"We received a response saying they wanted to continue the services, but they didn't want to pay," Bragg said.
Buffalo Grove continued to staff the intersections with crossing guards for the 2014-2015 school year because "we are very much committed to public safety," Bragg said.
But after District 21 again failed to pay their share of the crossing guard fees again, Bragg says the Village of Buffalo Grove decided to cut the services.
"At this point, it was two years as of June 18 and the district was not able to give any signal that they would pay," Bragg said.
So what's next for students as they start school Monday?
Bragg says Buffalo Grove sent District 21 a list of five possible solutions to get crossing guards to the intersections by Monday. They include the district hiring off-duty police officers at a rate of $71 per hour, or contracting with a third-party provider for crossing guard services. Bragg says that if the district is worried about cost, it could establish a volunteer system with the schools' parent-teacher organizations and the village would absorb the cost of training the volunteers. The district also could set up installment payments for the village's crossing guard services. All of the suggestions request that District 21 pay the $24,000 it currently owes.
Beach said it's unclear how, or if, District 21 will staff the intersections Monday.
"At this point, I think that's a conversation our board needs to have," she said.
All of which leaves parents frustrated, Hulligan said.
"It's really a tug of war between the village and district," Hulligan said. "And the kids and families are caught in the middle."