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County hopes to reach deal on crossing guards

By Billy Corriher

Members of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners announced Tuesday night that they hope to resolve the school system's crossing guard problem at a meeting with the county Board of Education and local mayors next week.

Several citizens came to the commissioners' meeting to voice their concerns about the lack of crossing guards at schools within the county's cities.

The county, which used to provide the entire system's crossing guards until this school year, hopes to work out a compromise in which the county shares the costs for guards with the school board and the cities.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday at the County Annex.

The county told the school board at the end of the 2001-2002 school year that crossing guards for schools within cities would no longer be provided, Board of Commissioners Chairman Crandle Bray said. The county could not afford to keep funding guards for all schools when the system kept growing, he said.

Bray said the county does not technically have jurisdiction within the cities anyway, and he said the school board had ample time to arrange for other crossing guards.

But several citizens who showed up at the meeting said they were dissatisfied with how all the parties involved have handled the situation.

Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton County NAACP, addressed the commission on the issue and said the problem is that the county pulled the guards before other arrangements were made.

"They left out kids out there for three-and-a-half months," Matthews said. "I guess the question is ?How much is a child's life worth in Clayton County?'"

State Rep. Victor Hill, D-Riverdale, also attended the meeting and voiced his disapproval of the situation.

"I don't have a problem with the fact that the cities should pay for it," he said. "The problem is we're having little kids in danger until we pay for it."

Commissioner Charley Griswell said the school board should take responsibility for the lack of guards.

"The only ones they're blaming is the county commission and that's not right," he said.

Griswell and citizens in attendance blamed the school board for not addressing the issue and ignoring residents' concerns.

Bray would not go into specifics with how the county and school board might split the costs, but Griswell said that he would support asking the school board to pay for half the cost of the guards.