PARRY SOUND – With or without the school board’s financial assistance, town council stressed it will not be getting rid of its school crossing guards.
With or without the Near North District School Board's financial assistance, town council says its crossing guards will remain.
Beacon Star file photo
On Tuesday night Parry Sound council unanimously voted against the regrouping the Parry Sound Community Safety Committee that would also see the removal of the town’s crossing guards, a cost-savings of $32,600.
“Shouldn’t we decide whether we want to eliminate the crossing guards or not? By forming this committee, it’s saying right here that it will result in the elimination of the crossing guards,” said Coun. Dan McCauley. “I think that’s a discussion we have to have, which we haven’t. I know there’s a lot of conversation in the community, but there hasn’t been that discussion around this table.”
Coun. Bonnie Keith praised the many facets crossing guards provide children.
“You have to ask yourself, what’s the cost of a child’s life? I value money, there’s no doubt about that, however can I say a child’s worth $32,600? No,” said Keith. “I think we want to be able to say, or at least believe, that we want a safe community for our youth, which is our future generation. The idea of a crossing guard, maybe when one first thinks about it, they maybe don’t look at the full role a crossing guard plays. A crossing guard is a role model for students and of course safety is a top priority.”
She added that the guards also promote the town’s philosophy of an active community.
When you’re a youth, you’re usually carefree and relying on others – at least at times – to have wiser judgment. If we want people to feel safe in our community, we have to provide them with some protection. One minute we say we want people in our community to walk more, we want the youth to walk more get more exercise, cycle and the other side of the coin in an effort to save money we’re forgetting about the fact that we have to provide a safe aspect. I can’t support any of this; I think we need our crossing guards just the way they are. We need to find money somewhere else.”
Coun. Keith Saulnier agreed, saying his three children are escorted safely across the street twice a day.
“I like the crossing guards. Leave them alone,” said Saulnier. He asked around the table if the town had ever approached the Near North District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic School board about helping fund the town’s crossing guard program.
“After I had written this report I had received a call from the Near North District School Board and the (Simcoe Muskoka) Catholic School Board and it was informal, but it would be precedent-setting to be involved financially so they wouldn’t support it,” said town bylaw enforcement officer Tammy Purdy. “But they still have to meet with their trustees and they will be sending a letter after they meet with their board. As far as I know at this time, they’re not interested in any financial partnership at this time.”
Coun. Brad Horne was aghast to learn the board would not help.
“These boards receive money from the Ministry of Education and are unwilling to assist us, I find, it disturbing, and I agree with councillor Keith and councillor Saulnier in terms of keeping our crossing guards,” said Horne. “I’m quite disturbed it would be an outright no, and I think the community should be aware of that.”
Mayor Jamie McGarvey said if it came down to it, the town would pick up the full tab for its crossing guards.
“I personally can’t see giving up crossing guards,” said McGarvey. “If we end up having to pay for it all, that’s fine; we’ll do it because the safety of the children comes first.”
After council defeated the resolution, it passed an alternative resolution formally writing both boards to request they pay half the costs associated with the crossing guard program in town.
“They may see it as precedent in this particular school board, but there are examples in other school boards where the school board does have to pay for the crossing guards. For too long we have anteed up and at some point they should accept some responsibility in this matter,” said McGarvey. “If they say no, that’s the message from the school board as to what they think of the safety of the children. We feel it’s paramount and we should stick with it, but we’ll see what they say officially.”