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Portage police looking for crossing guards before start of school year

PORTAGE (WKOW) — With the first day of school rapidly approaching, some districts are still looking to ensure kids can get there safely.

Both Portage and Baraboo are asking for applicants to fill their crossing guard potions.

Assistant police chief Keith Klafke’s in charge of making sure Portage has enough crossing guards to cover the city’s busiest streets. He said they’ve been lucky to have some people stay on staff for more than 20 years, but recently, things have changed.

“A lot of those staff members aren’t with us anymore,” he said.

Klafke said some left for health reasons, others moved away or couldn’t make the schedule work anymore so he’s been struggling to fill the city’s five positions for the past several years. He said the job itself is simple.

“We look for someone that just wants to be a positive person for the kids,” he said. “Be alert, be physically mobile to actually get out in the street and hold the stop sign for an extended period of time.”

Klafke said trouble is finding someone who can fit the schedule and is willing to make through the winter. He said guards typically work from 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning and 2:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon and they’re paid $15 per shift.

If the city can’t fill its vacancies by the start of school, Klafke said officers like him will have to step up, as they have for years.

“This is where I was staffed for one year,” he said pointing at the hut outside the school district office. “This is also a high priority for us, we don’t want children injured going to school.”

Still Klafke said putting officers on street corners means taking them off of their patrols, which should serve as a last resort for the city.

“If our resources are pulled to do the crossing guard duties or could reduce us just getting to calls in a timely manner,” he said.

To fill the gap, Klafke said he’s hoping for different kinds of applicants. He said he’s working this district to attract high school students 18 and older who could use a part-time job, and he’s also trying to attract stay-at-home moms.

“We want someone to stick around for many years and help us out,” he said.

In the past week, Klafke’s said there’s been a glimmer of hope. He said the department’s gotten five crossing guard applications in the past week. He said they’ll have to pass the background check and vetting process before they can start but he’s hopeful they’ll have the staff they need by the first week of school.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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