McPherson's children can travel to and from school more safely, thanks to a team of crossing guards.

McPherson's children can travel to and from school more safely, thanks to a team of crossing guards.

The McPherson Police Department hires crossing guards each year to assist students in crossing busy intersections. Though the department started the year with an open position, this opening has since been filled, meaning students will find someone waiting to help them cross the road.

"For the beginning of the year, we had some substitute crossing guards filling the position at Elm and First Street," said McPherson Police Capt. Todd Martens, who oversees the crossing guards. "We had a hard time filling that position, but we found someone, and the city commission approved them Monday."

Anyone can apply to become a crossing guard, but the job's unusual hours make it difficult for many people to fill. Guards must be present in the morning, when children are traveling to school, and in the afternoon, when they leave.

"Those hours can make it hard for people who work during typical hours of the day," Martens said. "It's one of those things where they're working an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, so it kind of breaks up your afternoon. Not everyone has that time available."

Because of the job's unusual hours, Martens said most crossing guards are older people who have retired.

"Typically, they're wanting something to do, to fill in that time and do something," he said.

However, the police department has started recruiting college students whose class scheduled allow them more flexibility.

"We're looking for anyone who has the time. Some college students might have just one class in the morning or afternoon and want some extra spending money. They can be more flexible."

Crossing guards must pass a background check before being hired. Martens said many crossing guards return for several years, so the department doesn't have to recruit new crossing guard teams each year.

The department also keeps substitute crossing guards on hand, in case a regular guard can't make a shift.

In addition to stopping traffic for children to cross, crossing guards also monitor motorist speed and encourage them to obey school speed limit zones.

"Really, we're just looking for someone dependable, someone who can help kids cross the street safely," Martens said. "There are a lot of main streets these kids cross — First Street, Avenue A, Kansas Avenue. Stoplights can help, but we've found it's better to have someone there as well, and make sure everyone is safe."