GLEN ROCK, NJ - The borough and the school district are working together to find more crossing guards as children increasingly return to school, but several issues have made this year especially difficult for crossing guards, in addition to getting them to stay on the job at all.
After learning the school district needed more crossing guards, the police chief came up with a solution that could work for everyone, at least for now: train security personnel already in the schools as interim crossing guards.
"The Board of Education is scheduled to address the borough’s offer to designate their security personnel as interim crossing guards at the BOE's March 8 meeting," Chief Dean Ackermann told TAPinto. "Once we receive their answer, the town is prepared to move forward with an interlocal service agreement in an expeditious fashion."
Funding for the extra crossing guards will be addressed through that interlocal agreement.
Ackermann said the training can take place right away. "All the Glen Rock Public Schools Security Officers are recently retired law enforcement officers and the training will not be a heavy lift for us. But is still required, nonetheless," he said.
With a hybrid learning schedule, which requires more children coming and going from school buildings around town, especially during the 11:30 to 1 p.m. time slot, the number of posts requiring guards "has increased dramatically," according to council president Mary Barchetto.
On Feb. 24, Barchetto explained it came as a shock to the borough council to learn more guards were needed. She said the district admitted they made plans for more guards without consulting the town.
That is only part of the issue, according to Ackermann, who supervises the crossing guard staff.
He explained that the position is part-time and the type of individual who is interested in that type of schedule is typically a senior. Several individuals who applied for the job "failed the physical," he said.
During normal, non-covid times, there are 21 crossing guard posts filled during the school year. About 10, Ackermann said, return year after year.
He also noted because of the split schedule in schools, it has been a "full-time job just to schedule" the guards from shift to shift on a weekly basis.
Chief Ackermann said he currently needs 34 crossing guards to fill what 21 people used to be able to do, and that includes fill-ins, substitutes and emergency back-ups.
Another issue in retaining crossing guards has to do with the public itself.
"We had a number of guards who resigned this year," he said. "They deal with profanity-laced tirades; people that yell at them with no masks on; one woman was even spit at."
Chief Ackermann said it was heartbreaking to sit across from one 71-year-old woman who was crying when she explained why she had to resign.
"What they have to put up with," he told the council. "People laying on their horn, yelling, it's just not acceptable."