An ongoing shortage of crossing guards in Leander ISD has intensified in the past year, placing a strain on students’ safety and additional responsibilities on district employees, district officials said.

Put in perspective

For the past six years, LISD crossing guard Beverly Harris has greeted students of all ages at the corner of Cougar Country Drive and Lakeline Boulevard near Running Brushy Middle School. The most important part of her job isn’t just helping students cross the street safely—it’s remembering to pick up old conversations, lending advice and listening, she said.

“We are the first person some of these young people see,” Harris said. “Everything they say is important. Pay attention.”

Harris transitioned to the role after serving as a bus monitor when she realized the district was experiencing a crossing guard shortage, she said. While students can be sure to see Harris each day, district officials said many intersections in the district are currently unattended.

What’s happening?

The district has struggled to employ enough crossing guards to adequately cover its campuses for the past few years; however, 2023 has been particularly challenging, LISD Safety and Training Supervisor Robert Bellah said. Almost 68% of the district’s 109 crossing guard positions were vacant at the end of last school year.

As of November, the vacancy rate dropped to almost 58% as Lead Crossing Guard Lavenda Elmer said she hired 14 more guards over the last couple of months. While the district had 42 crossing guards in November, it would need around 50 to 60 to cover major roads and up to 120 to cover the entire district, LISD Director of Transportation Tracie Franco said.

Since the beginning of the school year, the district lost 13 crossing guards mostly due to extreme heat, Bellah said. He said parents who once served as a crossing guard before and after working at home have now returned to the office.

“This has been a hard year for crossing guards,” Bellah said.

The district has amped up staffing to accommodate new schools and began staffing at Travis County schools in 2020 after the county stopped filling those positions, Elmer said. She said the district considers whether a route is hazardous and its distance from the school when deciding where to place a guard.

The impact

A lack of crossing guards has threatened safety for students and drivers as students run across unattended intersections, and traffic accidents become more likely, Bellah said. To keep the busiest intersections safe, the district has reassigned some crossing guards from their original post, Franco said.

“When we move these other crossing guards, then we take away this relationship-building, this interaction with the kids who get used to seeing the crossing guards,” Franco said.

Some campuses have taken it into their own hands to keep students safe by employing teachers to serve as crossing guards, Bellah said. He said the amount of crossing guards at a campus can differ based on the school’s involvement.

“They've got teachers at every intersection, and I've got two permanent staff up there,” Bellah said about Larkspur Elementary. “But you go to another campus, you may have just one or two.”

Bellah said he and Elmer go out each morning to try and fill in the gaps. The district is also working with child nutrition services staff members to allow them to work as a crossing guard before and after their cafeteria shift, LISD Chief Communications Officer Crestina Hardie said.

Transportation staff have and will continue to recruit more crossing guards by attending district events, such as football games and PTA meetings, and posting banners, flyers and newsletters across campuses and online. In the 2021-22 school year, the district increased the starting pay for crossing guards from $10 to $15 an hour, Elmer said.

Learn more

Visit the Leander ISD website to learn more about these positions and apply.