Victoria council votes to cover School District funding shortage for crossing guards

School crossing guards. Source: Victoria News file photo

Nicole Crescenzi, Victoria News, Aug. 3, 2018

August has just begun, but Victoria council are planning ahead for the first days of school – and asking why they are paying for a service they say should be covered by the Ministry of Education.

During Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, councillors approved granting just over $27,000 to the Greater Victoria Crossing Guards Association, to ensure elementary schools have adults patrolling the crosswalks before and after school.

In previous years, the City paid between $30,000- $37,500 per year to Beacon Community Services for its crossing guard program. This year, Beacon did not offer the service, so parents formed the non-profit Greater Victoria association.

“This is not the perfect fix,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “It should be delivered through the education system, but because of how constrained funding is for the school system, we can fill the gap.”

Coun. Marianne Alto agreed.

“This is not something I’d support on an ongoing basis, as to who should be contributing in the long term, but we can have those discussions next year,” she said.

Asked whether the Greater Victoria School District had been contacted about the funding, Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works, confirmed they had, but the district has no plans to take it on at this time.

“This is essential, school starts in a month,” Isitt said. “I don’t want to compromise this and given undue gaps [in funding due to] neo-liberalism … This is an allocation well spent.”

Coun. Geoff Young said that $27,000 probably wouldn’t be enough. He reminded councillors of their recent decision to support the living wage policy, which supports paying City staff and contractors a minimum $20.50 per hour.

Mayor Lisa Helps agreed with the importance of having crossing guards at schools, but noted that the funding would be put forward in a grant, and not fall under the living wage policy.

“It’s fine for the end of 2018, we’ve been funding it; but the question is should we be funding it?” Helps said. “We need a proactive approach; let’s see if we can have a partnership between the CRD, the province and other municipalities.”

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