Pictured: Chelsey Garcia, 4, crosses the street after school Tuesday with her grandmother, Diana Guerra. No crossing guards are in position for the first week of school. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER

Two openings need to be filled

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

With the start of the first week of school, crossing guards are lacking at a couple of elementary schools, Chief Danny Bueno said.

Of the seven crossing guards needed for the elementary schools, including two guards at Schallert Elementary School, five vacancies have been filled, leaving two positions open.

Bueno said the city has struggled to keep school crossing guards on its payroll.

"We've had a shortage of crossing guards in the last two years," he said.

At Noonan Elementary School, children were crossing the street without supervision. Many were darting through traffic, in and out of vehicles, hoping the cars would stop so they could cross.

"I noticed that there weren't any crossing guards," said Laura Luna, a parent. "That's crazy."

Another parent didn't understand why the city has waited so long to fill the vacancies.

"I don't know why they waited so long," said Christina, a parent.

Parents said the city and school officials should have had crossing guards in place since the first day of school.

While some say the pay is reasonable at $8.50 an hour, the hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon is a tough schedule to juggle.

Bueno said the guard's salaries come directly from the safety fee budget.

The crossing guard schedule is 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

He said each crossing guard is provided with a uniform and all the equipment they need. The guards go through an orientation with the city and training on traffic control, stopping vehicles and directing pedestrians with the traffic coordinator. Guards must provide their own transportation.

Emilia Flores, a crossing guard who has been rehired and is in the process of going through her training, said she was notified Tuesday about coming back as a guard.

"We will possibly start after Labor Day," she said.

Bueno advises motorists to watch for students as they are crossing the streets and to be aware of the traffic school zone areas.

"Providing school crossing guards are to protect the little ones," Bueno said. "School zone violations are very expensive."