Albany -- With less than a week before students head back to school in Dougherty County, the school board just today agreed to pay school crossing guards. The year long dispute between the city and the school board over who would pay the crossing guards continues, but for now the school board will hire the guards.
But the budget battle is not over. Today's resolution is just temporary.
The school board is hurriedly trying to hire back the crossing guard the city of Albany let go yesterday. McAfee "The details are not simple. In a big system like this, the logistics of that kind of program, take time to work through," said School Board Member Emily Jean McAfee.
So the board held a special called meeting to do just that. McAfee said, "There's never been any doubt that we would put a plan in place so that children would come to school safely."
The doubt was in the details. At the called meeting, Finance Director Robert Lloyd presented one option to members. Robert Lloyd says, "Our original plan is to actually get the first buses that arrive at the school to go back into the mile and a half zone, loop back again and get the children to muster at certain points, and load those buses up quickly and get them to school."
But the proposal was confusing to the board members. Board Member David Maschke even called it crazy. "I don't think the prudent approach is to say, 'Okay, the bus is coming' then we're going to spend gas driving around the neighborhoods looking for children. I mean, we're not like the ice cream man, that's crazy."
There are many busy intersections in Dougherty County. Six lanes of traffic on East Oglethorpe. Just imagine children trying to cross on their way to school without a crossing guard.
So this is what the board members came to an agreement on: They'll ask the crossing guards who were fired by the city yesterday, to come back on temporarily. Those positions, if funding isn't found elsewhere, will be financed by $30,000 of the school board's $3 Million reserve.
School Board Member James Bush said, "I think security is essential for our youth. There is just no compromising for that."
After the school year gets underway, and it's determined what crossings don't need a guard, those positions will be eliminated. Maschke said, "I think the vast majority of the 57 crossing guards did that job, because they enjoyed doing it, and liked being able to help children in the community, and I think they are going to be pleased to know that they can come back on board."
And the board is pleased they've finally reached an agreement to help get kids to school safely. Superintendent Dr. Whatley planned to begin calling crossing guards this afternoon. Not all the positions will be permanent.