Crossing guards will be ‘in tact;’ funding in discussion

Published 7:22 am Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The City of Austin and the Austin Public School District may have an agreement soon to determine who will fund adult crossing guards at four busy intersections.

Earlier this year, the city council approved pulling all funding for the guards, who patrol 15th Street Southwest; 12th Street and Third Avenue Southwest; Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue northwest; and 12th Street and 19th Avenue southwest.

After an outcry from district parents who demanded the guards be replaced, the city decided to fund the guards for one more month until a long-term solution could be found.

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Superintendent David Krenz met with city administrator Jim Hurm and Police Chief Paul Philipp to discuss funding, and they are nearing approval for a plan.

“We’re just in the middle of discussing the issue,” Hurm said Tuesday.

“It really needs to be ratified by both the school board and the city council,” Philipp said. “I have no doubt that will come to a satisfactory conclusion for both parties in the near future.”

Krenz said the city council will likely discuss the issue during their Monday meeting. Although he would not give details of the plan — including who would fill the guard positions and where funding will come from — he confirmed the guards will be “in tact.”

“The final details of where each dollar will come from are still in the discussion,” he said.

Southgate Elementary parent Danielle Nesvold and city council member Janet Anderson spoke before the council Monday about the guards issue.

“It was overwhelming to have that support,” Nesvold said of the decision to fund the guards for one more month.”

“We really appreciate the partnership and spirited cooperation,” Anderson said.

School board member David Simonson, a retired Austin police lieutenant, said he was involved with the crossing guards during his career.

“You can’t put a price tag on safety with children,” he said, acknowledging “these are tight, tough times.”

“I think both the city and the school district know the safety of our students is paramount,” school board member Kathy Green said. “I really do think the city has done a great job in the past of securing personnel.”

Green and vice president Richard Lees said they recommend professional guards be on duty versus volunteers, for “continuity” purposes, Lees said.

“I think it’s too important to turn it over to volunteers,” he said. “They have the best intentions, but — I’ll leave it right there.”

Chairman Don Fox said most of school board members have received phone calls from concerned constituents.

”We are both in financial straits, but we will work it out,” Fox said of the city and school district.