The head of School District 65’s Finance Committee isn’t happy about the Evanston City Council vote last month to drop city funding for school crossing guards at the end of this school year.

Following the Nov. 1 Council vote, Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski sent a letter to District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton saying that once the city’s contract with a private firm that provides the guards ends, “the responsibility to manage the crossing guard program will belong to the local school districts and parochial schools.”

At a school board Finance Committee meeting Thursday, committee members wondered how the school system might come up with the money for the program that now costs over $500,000 a year.

Committee chair Joey Hailpern questioned “whose responsibility it is for the safety of the roads our children walk on?”

District 65 “should have some but not all of that responsibility,” he said.

Hailpern said the district has 18 school buildings, a number that may change if a new 5th Ward school is built or if other buildings are closed.

With District 65 looking to save money by reducing bus routes and having more children walk to school, that might mean more crossing guards are needed at a time when the city wants out.

The interim city manager’s letter did state that city council “expressed an openness to provide limited monetary assistance” for a crossing guard program in the future, but Council did not provide any details on how much money or for how long.

Hailpern said he understands the city has its own money problems, but said some city financial participation is needed for crossing guards.

“It’s not just our problem to solve,” he said.

Evanston Township High School and Chiaravalle Montessori School currently reimburse the city for their share of the crossing guard program’s cost, but District 65 and two parochial schools, Pope John XXIII and St. Athanasius, do not.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.