Keeping students safe when budgets are tight - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Keeping students safe when budgets are tight

Dubuque (KWWL) -- After Governor Culver's 1.5% cut in state spending, some schools and police departments are having a hard time paying for student safety. The Prairie du Chien police department just announced a reduction in the number of crossing guards. The Moline School District already eliminated four positions.

In eastern Iowa, the future of crossing guards hangs in the balance. Iowa City police provide guards for area students. On Tuesday, the department said "we were asked to reduce our budget in all departments, including crossing guards. They were left in the budget, but were listed as an item to go, if the city needs to rebalance resources."

On the other hand, Dubuque has a system that barely puts a dent in the budget. The district only spends around $14,000 a year paying guards. That's because most crossing guards are part of the student safety patrol or are staff paid through their regular contracts.

Lincoln Elementary sits in a high traffic part of town, bound by University Avenue and West 5th Street. The principal says the majority of students live within two miles of the school, so most walk home. That's why school administrators call guards a necessity near Lincoln and other schools near busy streets.

"The traffic around all of our schools has increased and some of our schools are in areas that weren't designed to handle that kind of traffic, whether that speed limit is 25 or it's 15 during the school zone. I think it's extremely important to have adult staff out making sure that our students can cross safely," Kris Hall said.

Joan Dahlquist is one of the more than a dozen guards paid from the 14-thousand dollar budget. She says their job is extremely important, but pretty straight-forward.

"As I tell all of our students, just to assess the traffic and make sure we are providing safe crossings for the students," Dahlquist said.

In her more than seven years leading safety patrol, she's seen several close calls.

"Cars running red lights, cars cutting too close to the corners, we've had students who've made poor choices running across the middle of the street and almost getting hit," Dahlquist said.

She and district officials say stories like that are part of the reason guards are so important, and they have not even considered reducing crossing guards.

Dubuque school officials say they might even add more guards if necessary. A new crossing signal and adult guard are planned for Hempstead High School.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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