The first person many children see after leaving home during the school year is a crossing guard.
Portage Assistant Police Chief Keith Klafke said the importance of that connection and responsibility can’t be understated.
Officials in Portage and Baraboo are reaching out to seek more people willing to help ensure children arrive safely at school each day.
“It’s an important position that needs to be filled, and it’s for the children,” Klafke said. “It’s of utmost importance to get kids to school safely.”
Baraboo Police Department Capt. Rob Sinden has filled in as a crossing guard occasionally in his career as a police officer and said he’s thankful for the people who offer their time to help keep local kids safe.
Inclement weather conditions and early hours are a couple reasons why crossing guard positions have historically been difficult to fill, Sinden said.
“There’s not a lot of people that are willing to do that,” Sinden said. “These are truly special people.”
Crossing guards are paid $15 for each time slot they work in Portage, including mornings and afternoons. In Baraboo, the workers earn $10 every shift in mornings or afternoons. Each shift lasts about 60-90 minutes.
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Baraboo has five crossing guards and four work in West Baraboo. Both Sinden and village of West Baraboo Public Works Director Robert DeMars said additional guards always are needed.
Portage has three crossing guards and needs at least five people signed up to cover all of the identified intersections, Klafke said.
Crossing guards help free up patrol officers’ schedules and allow them to focus on emergencies, Klafke said. Crossing guards need to be friendly, observant, physically mobile and alert, and serve as a positive influence for children, Klafke said.
Sinden said making eye contact with kids and drivers while holding a stop sign high is a key aspect of keeping people safe in areas with dense traffic.
DeMars said the intersection of Highway 33 and Willow Street near Gordon L. Willson Elementary and Baraboo High School has proven to be dangerous. On multiple occasions in the last decade, crossing guards have either been struck there or reported cars not stopping as directed. Less than a block away and directly in front of Willson Elementary, the intersection of Hill Street and Berkeley Boulevard also has been problematic.
DeMars said more frequent patrols by the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office have helped reduce issues during peak traffic hours.
Drivers need to heed caution lights and drive slow through school zones, DeMars said, urging community members to be more careful and allow more time in their daily routines so they’re not in so much of a hurry.
“We want to make sure the kids are getting to and from school safe,” DeMars said.