Though the closing of 27 pools, 19 recreation centers and four senior centers has had more immediate impact on the city, and the layoff of 102 police officers has created more uproar, in three weeks the city's 203 laid-off crossing guards will certainly be missed. Whether they will be re-employed by the school district remains an open question.
"The school district is not obligated to have them," notes school-board solicitor Ira Weiss. In fact, he says, no district in the state is required to have crossing guards. "In this particular situation it is the city's sole function" to maintain public safety and employ the guards, he says.
Nonetheless, he adds, the district is considering reconstituting a guard force of its own: "The district has requested information from the city -- what do you want us to do, how much do those guards cost, where are they assigned? The board will consider what its options are and see if it's in a position to do something."
In a July 2000 survey of 56 Commonwealth towns by the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, 38 said they made some sort of financial contribution to local school crossing guards. Only two lacked guards at all. Four cities paid for their guards entirely -- Allentown, Chester, Connellsville and of course Pittsburgh -- while 30 paid half the cost. Pittsburgh was one of only half a dozen places that offered benefits.
Making the situation most "difficult," Weiss says, is the fact that the Pittsburgh school board was forced to consider creating its own guards program after the current guard force was laid off -- and that the whole thing is a very "public process."