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Greater Victoria councils push to fund SD61 crossing guards as absence looms

Crossing guard association folding in June makes September return uncertain
Greater Victoria communities want SD61 to use municipal funds for crosswalk programs. (Black Press Media file photo)

Some core communities are hoping to fund crossing guards around their schools as the traffic attendants may not be there to guide Greater Victoria students come September.

In June, the Greater Victoria Crossing Guards Association announced it was folding at the end of the school year. That came after the group signalled in 2021 that it may not be able to go on.

The association’s crossing guards served 19 intersections around Greater Victoria School District (SD61) schools in Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and View Royal. To date, funding has been split between municipalities, parent advisory councils, school partners and other community donors.

Victoria and Saanich have committed to fully fund crossing guard services in their communities if the school district operates the program. That would match the model used by neighbouring Greater Victoria school districts.

The Sooke and Saanich districts use municipal funds to directly provide crossing guard services with educational assistants who are already employed at the schools. School District 63 already gets funding from Saanich to provide the service.

“We respectfully request that your school district seriously consider offering these services funded by participating municipalities in order to support active transportation and improve the safety of children in our region,” a June 6 letter from Saanich council to SD61 reads.

Victoria approved extra funds in 2021 to keep the city’s current crossing guard sites staffed through the school year, along with annual allocations of $62,000 for the program. Council on Thursday (July 14) voted to urge SD61 to provide the crossing guards with municipal dollars.

READ: Greater Victoria Crossing Guard Association faces funding shortage after taking over in 2018

“I think this really is a win-win scenario,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, who put the motion forward. “This is a way to get the crossing guard program stably funded in perpetuity.”

Victoria staff also looked into the city directly providing the program, but found it would be a more costly option. It would also create inconsistency within SD61 if other municipalities didn’t establish their own programs.

Both Victoria and Saanich noted they have and will continue to make infrastructure improvements to boost safety around schools.

In Esquimalt, crossing guards went from serving four intersections near L’Ecole Macauley Elementary between 2008 and 2017 to just two sites currently, due to retirements.

The school’s parent advisory council told the township options moving forward include SD61 hiring crossing guards with money from municipalities, Esquimalt hiring crossing guards for L’Ecole Macauley and ending the service and instead relying on planned traffic-calming measures. Esquimalt council asked its school liaison to reach out to SD61 for more information.

“This is a challenging situation and our kids are important,” Mayor Barb Desjardins said.

Black Press Media has not received a response from SD61.

READ: ‘Guards are in place and ready to serve:’ Victoria approves emergency crossing guard funding Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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