As students leave for holiday break, the fate of Elkhart crossing guards is still unknown. The City of Elkhart cut funding for school crossing guards when they adopted their new budget in October. The cost to fund crossing guards for a year is about $222,000.
The kerfuffle over who should pay for crossing guards is not new to Elkhart. Most people say it’s a often a disagreement between schools and city officials, but usually settled quickly.
Elkhart traditionally pays crossing guards for their service, but since last summer have said the city can no longer afford the expense and Indiana code doesn’t require them to budget for crossing guards.
Crossing guards are hired through the police department and are therefore city employees. Although they are outside of schools, crossing guards technically work on city property.
But this year, students may return to no crossing guards at the end of break. Troy Thomas has been a crossing guard at Monger Elementary School for four years. He said crossing guards haven’t been told whether they’ll have a job in January, but they did receive a letter requesting they show up at the Elkhart Police Station on Dec. 28 with their badges, handheld stop signs and reflective vests.
“That probably means we won’t have a job if we’re going down there to give them the stop sign, our badge and our vest,” Thomas said.
Thomas is retired and said he understands any decision the city makes. He said all he cares about is that the children are safe.
One parent who walked her daughter to school said she hasn’t received any sort of notice from the school regarding crossing guards.
“There needs to be one there’s too many little kids,” she said.
Thomas estimates about 50 kids cross Hively Avenue to get to school every day, more if the weather is nice. He said that although there’s a zebra crossing and pedestrian signals, where people are intended to cross, he said it doesn’t mean cars always stop.
“There’s so many trucks that go by here. I’m not sure that making the street a single lane made it safer, a lot of cars are rushing to make the light,” said Thomas, “When it was four lanes, people tended to cruise more.”
A spokesperson for Elkhart Schools said they’re still having discussions with the city regarding the matter.
Chris Snyder of the Elkhart Police says there’s still time for a resolution, but as of now, crossing guards have not been funded for next year.