Crossing guards are still needed

County schools seek to fill 27 positions

police officers substitute

August 30, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

With the school year starting today, the Baltimore County school system is still trying to recruit a few more crossing guards to ensure that students get to and from school safely.

Crossing guards, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers, tend to choose summer as the time to resign. That means the school system and the county Police Department must scramble to fill those jobs before the school year starts, said Charles Herndon, school system spokesman.

"It's simply a shortage that's not unusual to face every year," he said. "It's just a matter of filling all the vacancies that occur."

As of Friday, the county needed to fill seven of its 235 permanent positions and 20 of 21 substitutes, primarily for elementary schools, police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

"They're a vital necessity for the younger children," Toohey said. "Sometimes drivers are not as responsible as we'd like, so we need that pair of adult eyes at an intersection, protecting the children."

The substitute positions are particularly important because police officers have to fill in when no one else can, Toohey said. Of the yearly 115,824 crossing guard shifts last year, police officers had to step in for 1,742, he said.

"It's a strong need because 1,742 times is 1,742 hours that an officer is not on patrol," Toohey said.

Substitutes may work every day and usually work at least three days a week, said Officer Ron Ruark, with the Police Department's Traffic Management Unit.

Guards are paid $10.15 per hour, and permanent guards typically work one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.

"When we're competing with McDonald's and Burger King and lots of other jobs, not a lot of people want to do it," Toohey said.

For Dorothy Gill of Dundalk, being a crossing guard is the only job she wants. Gill, 71, has been working on the same corner by Grange Elementary School in Dundalk for the past 31 years, helping generations of children cross Church Road safely.

"The kids I've crossed, I'm crossing their children now," she said.

She said she applied for the job because of her love for children, and she has a personal attachment to the school -- her children and grandchildren attended Grange. She takes candy for the children to brighten their day.

"They just look forward to that bag of candy," Gill said. "If they don't have it, their faces fall a mile."

The Police Department and school system will continue to accept applications throughout the year. Guards must be at least 18 years old, have reliable transportation and pass a background check and physical examination.

Applications: 410-887-5822 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Pub Date: 8/30/99

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