MCKINLEY PARK — Dozens of crossing guard positions around the city are vacant, creating concerns about the safety of young students trying to cross busy intersections.
The city has 65 open crossing guard positions, a number that's grown since the start of the year. There are about 560 crossing guard posts in the city budget. The guards earn $17,000 to $22,600 annually.
The vacancies are due to "a significant number of retirements and resignations," said Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. The city is trying to fill the vacancies, she said.
The number of vacancies has grown since the start of the school year in September, when there were 42 empty crossing guard positions, Stratton said.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said his office has been inundated with complaints about the vacant positions.
"This is a fundamental safety issue," Waguespack said. "Not having a crossing guard at dangerous intersections puts kids at risk."
Parents can't volunteer to fill in for the missing guards because that would violate the city's contract with Service Employees International Union Local 73, Stratton said.
Waguespack blamed some of the vacancies on a "lack of leadership" and the "drastic change" that went into effect in September when the crossing guards were moved from the Chicago Police Department to the Office of Emergency Management Communications, which also includes 911 dispatchers.
"People were fed up," Waguespack said. "In some cases, they were past retirement age and were doing this because they love the city and the kids."
Waguespack's effort to return the crossing guards to the Police Department as part of the 2017 budget was blocked from a vote by the mayor, who didn't want uniformed officers responsible for covering crossing guards who missed work.
"This was a switch designed to avoid vacancies, and that's not happening," Waguespack said. "It has been a total failure. Someone dropped the ball."
The city takes applications for jobs on its CAREERS website.