Although the City of St. John’s has agreed to continue funding the school crossing guard program for the current school year, it doesn’t have enough people to fill all the available positions.
In January, when The Telegram first reported the city would no longer fund the program after the end of that school year, Coun. Gerry Colbert noted only 11 of the 18 crossing guard positions were filled at the time.
According to Colbert, the city is currently advertising for about 10 crossing guard positions, half of what a full complement would be.
Colbert is chairman of the city’s police and traffic committee.
“There are 20 locations in which we use crossing guards, and that covers about 18 schools,” he said Tuesday. “There are eight schools not presently being serviced by a crossing guard.”
A couple of schools have two crossing guard positions.
Colbert admitted attracting people to the 10- to 15-hour-a-week job — at approximately $13 an hour — is a challenge.
“It’s very hard to get someone to show up every day in the middle of the winter, snowstorms, lousy weather, rain, sleet and be there two hours a day,” he said.
Guards normally work only an hour each in the morning and again when school lets out in the afternoon. Some get an extra hour of work a day if they cover the lunch hour.
But Colbert added that all the city can do is advertise the positions and hope they get enough applications to fill them.
When city council debated whether or not to cut the program during its budget discussions last year, Colbert said the issue of vacant positions wasn’t raised.
He said council only considered who should be responsible for the program, the liabilities the city assumes by providing the crossing guards and the cost.
Because the city didn’t have a full complement of guards last year, the program — which would normally cost $145,000 — cost only about $119,000.
The approximate savings of $26,000 is being used to help fund the program from now until Christmas.
When council made its original decision to cut the program, the rationale was that it was a provincial responsibility, either through the Department of Education or the Eastern School District.
However, the school board declined to take the program over.
Colbert said if the province decides it will share the cost of crossing guard programs with municipalities who want them, that would likely be a solution that is palatable to all sides.