Seattle facing crossing guard shortage as start of school year approaches

·2 min read

Nearly four in 10 intersections identified as “too dangerous for kids to cross alone” near Seattle schools do not have a crossing guard, according to a new report released by the city’s School Traffic Safety Committee.

The committee, which was created to ensure that there are working relationships between the different organizations involved in making sure students have safe routes to school, presented its annual report to the city council’s transportation and Seattle Public Utilities committee on Tuesday.

When fully staffed, Seattle Public Schools employs 117 paid crossing guards at intersections near schools in the district, and all of them were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vacancy rate sits at 39%, with 46 locations not having a crossing guard assigned to them, according to the report.

The committee believes that these vacancies can be filled if SPS removes an “unnecessary hurdle”: a $55 background check fee.

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“SPS already recognizes that background check fees are a disproportionate burden for hourly applicants, and already waives them for most hourly staff, but not for crossing guards,” the report reads in part.

Many applicants to these crossing guard positions are retirees on fixed incomes, and the committee reports that this fee can result in significant delays for these applicants as they often need to wait for their next month’s social security check to pay it.

The position is also reportedly difficult to fill as paid crossing guards work only two nonconsecutive hours a day.

The committee is also planning to make a push to increase the public’s awareness of the vacancies and reach out to members of parent-teacher organizations at schools in the district in hopes of finding more applicants.