Calumet City crossing guards laid off

October 16, 2009 2:16:51 PM PDT
Police officers in Calumet City are doing double duty as crossing guards after nearly four dozen school crossing guards were laid off.The lay-offs came as city officials looked to reduce expenses and close its $2.4 million budget deficit. Calumet City, like many other cities nationwide, has seen its revenues fall over the last year.

Calumet City's mayor tells ABC7 Chicago the town probably could have avoided laying off the crossing guards, if the police officers union had agreed to have all officers take one furlough day each month for the next seven months.

That offer was rejected. The mayor says, at that point, she simply didn't have another choice.

A representative of the Fraternal Order of Police told ABC7 Chicago Friday that it was the city that shut down negotiations, trying to force them to agree to the furlough days.

Nevertheless, children at Woodrow Wilson Elementary and other schools were helped across the street by police officers Friday.

"They're a big help in helping the children cross. I think the police officers should stick to crime and whatever they have to do," said parent Yadira Mejia.

"I feel bad for the crossing guards, that they lost their jobs," said parent Samuel Horn.

"We laid off six police officers, four inspectors, all the 47 crossing guards, and it's a result of the Fraternal Order of Police union contract that requires that all these part-time folks have to be laid off before you can lay off a police officer," said Calumet City Mayor Michelle Qualkinbush.

For now, the police officers will take over crossing guard duty in the mornings and afternoons for the next week, while the mayor tries to find other ways to bring the actual crossing guards back to work.

"I just want to be able to give someone a paycheck. At some point, we're not going to be able to do that. So, we have to take these measures. Again, I'm urging the Fraternal Order of Police to please reconsider concessions and let's get everybody back to work," Qualkinbush said.

"We also notified our parents last evening through a messaging system, letting them know that the police would be at certain locations. We designated where those locations were, and the children were told to go there. At the same time, we've told the parents that this will be in place until Friday of next week, and from then, we're encouraging the parents to start with the children, tell them they should be crossing at intersections with stop signs and also at areas with stop lights," said Dr. Troy Paraday, superintendent, school dist. 155.

Calumet City officials say they're also talking to the school districts to see if maybe they can pay for the crossing guards' salaries. However, it appears the budgets at the school districts are already set for the next year, and they are also facing budget cuts. They say they can't take on that responsibility.

The mayor says she hopes to have some sort of solution that will allow her to bring back the crossing guards sometime within the next week or two.


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