SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — School crossing guards may be in short supply come this fall.
A crossing guard company based out of Bakersfield said it will not renew its contract with several school districts due to a lack of staffing caused by the pandemic.
Last month, the owner of J&J Special Services, which provides crossing guards to at least four school districts in the Sacramento area, sent out a letter to 25 employees saying they were ending their contract and leaving many longtime crossing guards without a job.
For more than three decades, Christine Marchese watched and protected children crossing the busy street across from Ottomon Elementary School in Orangevale. She was even honored for her dedication.
“For all the years that I’ve been a crossing guard, I have a bench,” she told FOX40.
But the job she loved came to an abrupt end when her employer at J&J Special Services sent a letter stating their contract with Sacramento and Elk Grove area schools would not be renewed due to COVID-19. Her friend Jo Blatcher, who has been a crossing guard with Orangevale Open School for five years, also said she was shocked to receive the letter and decided to write back.
“Basically, I said, ‘I understand, but I don’t understand. I know that, probably, for you, it has to do with financials, but what about all the kids that you’re letting down?’” Blatcher explained.
“I don’t think anybody knows that they’re not going to have crossing guards and that’s going to impact a lot of people,” Marchese said.
Ottomon Elementary School will be one of several elementary schools without a crossing guard in the fall, something that is weighing heavy on the mind of Marchese’s husband and former supervisor.
“People do things for their reasons and sometimes we don’t know, so you respect it,” said Ray Marchese. “But at the same time, it’s like OK, what are these schools going to do? Do they even know about it?”
Ray Marchese said there are now 25 crossing guards — some over the age of 70 — who are now unemployed following an already difficult school year.
“So as well as it being something they’re serious about, it’s an extra income that they kind of relied on,” he said.
FOX40 contacted the four school districts J&J is reportedly contracted with. San Juan Unified School District said they partnered with J&J to provide crossing guards at high-risk intersections and were notified by the county last month of the potential shortage.
“For safety and liability reasons, San Juan Unified does not hire crossing guards to assist in traffic control off campus, nor do we allow staff or volunteers organized through the school to serve as crossing guards. District/school staff are responsible for areas of pedestrian, bicyclist and traffic safety on school grounds (ingress, egress, parking lots during pick-up / drop-off) NOT roadways,” the director of communication for SJUSD wrote to FOX40 Tuesday. “Also, federal requirements for crossing guards indicate that no one may control traffic with a stop sign except uniformed law enforcement officers and trained crossing guards. The two schools that we know of affected by this shortage are currently looking into alternative solutions for their sites.”
Elk Grove Unified School District also confirmed the latest change, saying they were told their contract would end due to lack of staffing and it is now up to them to provide crossing guards at 11 different schools.
“For EGUSD, of our eleven locations that need coverage, we will provide crossing guard services at those same locations with our own EGUSD staff. Therefore, there will be no impact to student or public safety when crossing in these areas,” the EGUSD director of communications wrote.
FOX40 did not receive confirmation the same would happen with Sacramento City Unified School District or Twin Rivers Unified School District.