LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Leander ISD is struggling to fill crossing guard positions in the district, and now it’s looking for new ways to attract people to the jobs.
The district is short about 20 crossing guards this year, meaning some are pulling extra duty at the intersections they patrol.
Beverly Harris works at a new intersection Leander ISD decided to staff this year, at New Hope Drive and Bagdad Road. The district planned to staff four crossing guards at the busy junction, but Harris is the only one they’ve been able to hire. She has to run from corner to corner when she sees kids coming to make sure she can help them get across safely.
“They’re having to wait,” she said, “and with kids, you never know what they’re going to do.”
Harris has been a crossing guard with the school district for six years, working at various intersections as needed. She felt the job was a good fit for someone new to the area looking to get to know the people here.
“One day I was taking my grandson to school and I’m like, ‘I want to do this.'”
But the 10-hour-a-week position simply isn’t attractive to enough people, Leander ISD spokesman Corey Ryan told KXAN. That’s becoming more problematic as the district continues to attract new families.
“We’re adding 1,000 new students every year,” Ryan said, “and this year we’re expecting to exceed projections in terms of new student growth.”
It’s hardly a unique situation in central Texas. Hays CISD expanded its total count of crossing guards to 23 this year (21 of which are filled), up from 15 last year. Changing landscapes account for the change.
“As cities and new subdivisions add sidewalks [and] safe routes to schools within the 2-mile walk zones of campuses,” district spokesman Tim Savoy told KXAN in an email, “we have reduced the number of buses needed.”
Round Rock ISD has hired or is in the process of hiring 100 crossing guards this school year, a spokesperson said, and there are 19 open positions currently. But even in districts with just a handful of guards, each new year brings uncertainty.
San Marcos CISD has just four crossing guard positions, and all are filled this year. Most of last school year, however, passed with half those positions unfilled, district spokesman Andrew Fernandez said in an email.
“It is extremely difficult to staff,” he added. “We get very few applicants.”
Now the Leander ISD school board is looking for new ways to fill open crossing guard positions. Board members approved raises last year, but that wasn’t enough.
“What we find is the challenge is these are really niche kind of positions because they’re not full 40-hour-a-week positions,” Ryan said. “They’re split days because they’re working at the beginning of the day and then in the afternoon.”
To clear that hurdle, district administrators are considering combining crossing guard duties with other positions in the district, like transportation, maintenance and nutrition to create full-time jobs that can attract more applicants.
Ryan said they’re also hoping parents will help them recruit new crossing guards who would be a good fit for the current schedule. Anyone interested can apply here.
Harris, the six-year veteran guard, added her own pitch to prospective employees.
“You’re protecting someone’s child like it was yours,” she said, and the parents she talks to appreciate that. It’s difficult pulling quadruple-duty at her new intersection every day, but forming bonds with her neighbors is worth it.
“When the parents come out and… thank you,” she said, “that makes your day.”