Who will provide school crossing guard service in Dallas next school year is in dispute with the demise of troubled school bus agency Dallas County Schools.
For the past five years, DCS provided crossing guards to the city of Dallas in return for city support of a school bus stop-arm camera citation program.
Losses from that program and questionable expenses with the vendor contributed to serious DCS financial problems, which were detailed by NBC5 Investigates over the past year.
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Voters decided to close DCS in a referendum this month, and now the agency will only provide buses and crossing guards until the end of this school year.
"I don't even want to think about if there wasn't a guard at this intersection," said DCS crossing guard Rachel Richardson.
She works at the busy corner of Military Parkway and Jim Miller Road in front of Urban Park Elementary School in the Urbandale neighborhood.
"These kids need someone to escort them across the street," Richardson said. "We have had some close altercations already, so they need the crossing guards."
At First Baptist Church of Urbandale, church secretary Leah Sisk has been watching the kids and the crossing guards for 19 years.
"A lot of them are walking. Even the moms come and pick up the children, and they'll walk them home," Sisk said. "This is one of the busy areas."
The city of Dallas spent $2.5 million to provide 350 crossing guards in 2011, the last full year that it was responsible for the service.
This year, DCS is spending $4.9 million for 375 crossing guards, about twice as much money for two dozen more crossing guards.
Urbandale neighborhood City Councilman Rickey Callahan said the city of Dallas should not take the crossing guard duty back.
"I'm thinking DISD is a better fit, not just because of the money, but because of their screening apparatus. They hire a lot of teachers. They hire a lot of summer employees, and they know what to screen for. When you're dealing with children, you've got to be careful, and you have to be sure you have the right kind of people," Callahan said.
In response, Dallas ISD spokesperson Robyn Harris said is it is the city's responsibility. "The crossing guards would go back to the city since they were in an agreement with DCS," Harris said.
In an email, Richardson Independent School District spokesman Chris Moore said Dallas already pays for Richardson ISD crossing guards.
"The city of Dallas provides crossing guards for our 30 campuses in that city. As a city, they contract crossing guards through DCS and will continue providing them through whatever means they determine to replace DCS," Moore's email said.
Back in Urbandale, Leah Sisk said someone needs to do it.
"It would be very detrimental to the children if they didn't have some type of crossing guard," she said.
And Councilman Callahan said the city of Dallas will see to it, one way or another by next school year.
"We're going to get it done, because we have to do it," Callahan said. "Children's safety is paramount."
DCS held meetings with crossing guards this week to assure them that their jobs are safe this school year and to ask them to stay on the job.