Elkhart, schools reach agreement in fight over crossing guards

Elkhart schools crossing guards // WSBT 22 Photo

The city of Elkhart and Elkhart Community Schools have come to an agreement in a lengthy battle over crossing guards.

It was a down-to-the-wire decision. The school district will fund crossing guards and the city will provide three school police officers.

The Board of Public Safety unanimously approved the proposal Thursday morning.

At the core, a crossing guard's job is to get kids to and from school safely, but to Eugene Broadnax, who has been a guard for over three years, it's more than just that.

"An honor and a responsibility, really, to know that you're protecting the life of a little child," said Broadnax.

He's one of the more than 20 guards that would've had to turn in their gear Thursday, had the district and the city not come to an agreement.

Now, the city will provide three student resource police officers and the school district will pay the cost of keeping the crossing guards.

"It does feel good to know that we will continue in our paid positions," Broadnax said.

Elkhart Police Department's Chief of Police Ed Windbigler says the thought of not having crossing guards made him cringe.

"I believe it is something that we need. I did not want to see our kids going to school every day without school crossing guards," he said.

Leaders seem to think the agreement is fair. The school district will pay $220,000 for the guards and it costs about $180,000 out of the police department's budget to provide the officers.

"The long-term goal with this would be having school resource officers that are there permanently and build that trust with our students," said Windbigler.

Robert Haworth, the superintendent of Elkhart Community Schools, agreed.

"It's about relationship building. Those officers that are there every day and gauge what's happening, that's what will make our community stronger that'll make our students career, college and life ready," said Haworth.

City and school leaders said it really just came down to children's safety.

"The thought of having children going across busy thoroughfares to and from school without school crossing guards is just something we weren't going to tolerate," said Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese.

Broadnax says he's happy to continue working and says not having crossing guards would be walking a thin line.

"If there is ever a time where crossing guards are negated, then the city needs to prepare themselves for injured children," he said.

The agreement is applicable until the end of the school year, but leaders say they don't see why it wouldn't continue into the future.

Those resource officers will be at both high schools and Pierre Moran Middle School, though the officer assigned to Pierre Moran will float throughout the middle and elementary schools.

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