Temporary reprieve for District 21 in Buffalo Grove crossing guard dispute
The village of Buffalo Grove will continue providing crossing guard service to Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 schools until the holiday break begins Dec. 18, but the program's long-term fate remains unclear.
The service has been imperiled by an inability of the village and school district to agree on who should pay for the program, a dispute that has generated a war of words in various emails, background memos and public statements.
An agreement on the temporary extension to Dec. 18 came after District 21 Superintendent Kate Hyland, school board President Bill Harrison, Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman and Village Manager Dane Bragg held a "productive" meeting Tuesday, District 21 spokeswoman Kara Beach said Wednesday.
The district and the village are expected to make an announcement about the negotiations next Tuesday, she said, declining to reveal details of the meeting.
But from what Buffalo Grove Deputy Village Manager Jenny Maltas said Thursday, it appears the two sides still are at odds and Tuesday's announcement could leave the future of the service in doubt.
The dispute started when Buffalo Grove threatened to discontinue the crossing guard program, saying the district owed the village $24,000 for services provided over the past two years.
District 21 officials said they had never agreed to the village's policy change requiring school districts to pay one-third of the guards' costs.
While the district argues the responsibility should fall on the village, Buffalo Grove officials say other school districts in town have agreed to pay.
The two sides reached an agreement just days before school started in August, keeping the guards in place while allowing the village and district two months to negotiate a deal.
But in September, the District 21 board declined to sign off on a long-term agreement with the village, disputing how much crossing guards are paid and refusing to pay for past service. As a result, village officials said Buffalo Grove would end service Nov. 13 if there wasn't a permanent agreement by then.
The two sides agreed Tuesday to move the potential cutoff date back to Dec. 18, which is the last day of school before break and allows enough time to notify crossing guards that their jobs will be eliminated, Maltas said.
One of the main reasons the dispute is continuing is because the village sees a future intergovernmental agreement and payment for the last two years as one issue, where the district sees them as two separate things to be negotiated.
"The village board unanimously said if the district doesn't pay for the services provided in the past, we don't want to move forward with the district," Maltas said. "The village board has said they would forgive half what the district owes, and when the district said they wouldn't pay that, negotiations were basically over at that point."
A Buffalo Grove spokeswoman said negotiations are still possible between the district and village officials.