AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Casis Elementary School crossing guard recently celebrated her 40th anniversary in the role. 

Clairlea Eckert, 66, is starting her fifth decade of helping kiddos get from one side of the street to the other safely but also stylishly. 

Clairlea Eckert, 66, celebrates her 40th anniversary of being a crossing guard at Casis Elementary School in Austin, Texas. (Photo courtesy: Casis Elementary)

“First hat that comes out is my pirate hat, which is September 18,” Eckert said. “And then my food (hats) come out because it’s the Texas State Fair and Wurstfest…then I get all my Halloween hats.” And so on. 

Eckert attended Casis Elementary from 1963 to 1969. Around a decade and a half later, at 26, she began working there as a crossing guard. Eckert, at a point, also worked at the school in the cafeteria. She has been working in the role so long that she remembers helping some parents she sees picking up their kids now when they went to Casis Elementary. 

“I’ve already burped and diapered their parents,” Eckert said. “I taught them how to tie their shoes – how to ride a bicycle. Had them in the cafeteria,” she continued.

To show their appreciation, Casis Elementary staff put on a 40th-anniversary celebration last week. They presented her with balloons and a hat that designated her the “Queen of the Crosswalk.” 

“She’s been really great, an integral part of keeping kids safe, but also just a smiling face,” said Larry Chauvin, a physical education teacher at the school. “(She) just loves to get the kids laughing with those hats that she has.”

When asked if she plans on putting down the bright red octagon any time soon, Eckert said she wants to keep working as a crossing guard for another 40 years. 

“Until I’m 100,” she said. 

Crossing Guard Shortage

Before the 2022 to 2023 school year began, the Austin Independent School district was down 55 crossing guards. Since then, Austin Public Works has been able to reduce the number of vacancies to 20, which it says is normal.

“Austin Public Works has made great progress in hiring Crossing Guards since the start of the school year, and we are back to normal staffing levels, with approximately 180 employees,” Cheyenne Dolin, a city spokesperson, said in an email.

“We’re able to cover most vacancies through crossing guard supervisors and their assistants. We recruit throughout the year, and anyone interested in applying can do so on,” she continued.