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Credit: Richard Cahan

The Evanston City Council’s support of a resolution handing off the crossing guard program to local school districts will save the city money and remove the administrative headaches that come with running the program, which the city has done for the past 20 years.

But it also means the schools will eventually bear the program’s full cost.

Council members voted unanimously Monday, May 23, to transfer administrative and financial responsibility of the crossing guard program to Evanston/Skokie School District 65, Evanston Township High School District 202, Pope John XXIII School, St. Athanasius School and Chiaravalle Montessori school, starting with the 2022-2023 school year.

The city will make partial reimbursements to those schools for the program through the 2026-2027 school year, after which the cost will fall on them fully.

Officials estimate Evanston’s savings will amount to $650,000 or more a year once the city has completely offloaded the program. In November, Council members supported city staff members moving forward on the effort.

“It seems like a fair ask,” then-Council Member Cicely Fleming said. “They’re our streets. We’ve [paid for the program] for years. We’re going to keep doing it at half the cost for maybe a year, maybe two years,” at which point the schools can pick up the full cost.

Currently, the city maintains and is financially responsible for the crossing guard programs, with guards stationed at nearly 50 posts.

Proposed phase-out

Starting with the next school year, the city will begin reimbursing the school districts $288,750, or, half of what the city is footing for the program right now, and end with a $150,000 payment in the last year of at the intergovernmental agreement term, wrote Michael Rivera, the city’s acting Administrative Services Director, in a memo.

Several other schools are already paying the city for the service.

Evanston Township High School pays nearly $72,000, covering the costs of three crossing guards and one parking enforcement officer, and Chiaravalle Montessori pays $10,500 for the one guard it uses, Rivera said.

Until two years ago the City was mandated to provide crossing guards, Rivera told council members last year. Through the state’s intergovernmental board, that is no longer the case, he said.

Staffing issues, replacement costs

Starting in 2018, the city contracted with Andy Frain Services to provide crossing guards in place of the city’s directly hiring crossing guards as employees, Rivera said. 

Ever since the pandemic hit, however, the company has been seeing fewer “people actually wanting to be around children and wanting to provide those services,” he said.

“So, it’s been very tough for the vendor to provide the crossing guards,” he said, “and then the second problem for the city is that when the vendor doesn’t provide a crossing guard, we subsidize that crossing with a parking enforcement officer.”

Doing so takes officers away from their normal duties, which include writing an average of four to six tickets an hour, Rivera told council members at the time.

The replacement guard is also working at a higher hourly rate.

“When somebody is absent from a corner, it costs the city anywhere from $130 to $180 per hour to man a corner that should be manned by a school district or private school,” Rivera said.

In an email response May 25, Rivera said the change will eventually free administrative staff from having to write request for proposals for the program, process invoices and checks, or field calls from Andy Frain, parents and school officials.

“Overall, the process will help our city services,” he said.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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  1. “So, it’s been very tough for the vendor to provide the crossing guards,” he said, “and then the second problem for the city is that when the vendor doesn’t provide a crossing guard, we subsidize that crossing with a parking enforcement officer.”

    Doing so takes officers away from their normal duties, which include writing an average of four to six tickets an hour, Rivera told council members at the time.
    ===========

    This made me throw up in my mouth a little. One of the upsides of dumping the cost onto the schools is that the City no longer has to worry about losing parking ticket revenue. The fact that lost parking ticket revenue is a downside when it comes to making sure that kids get to school safely is just twisted.