ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –It’s a friendly face and maybe even a high five on the way into school, all while keeping kids safe. But right now, crossing guards are in short supply.

“It’s someone who just provides such a positive impact on so many people, it really does kind of get overlooked,” said Scott Cilke, Public Information Officer for the city’s General Services Department. “The big reason for the shortage, you know, the pandemic hit, and APS essentially went home for two years and when we came back, we didn’t get the numbers back that we had before.”

The city’s new General Services Department provides crossing guards free of charge to up to 74 APS elementary schools. Ideally, the department would have 150 crossing guards. But right now, it only has about 110.

“We’ve been making some strides to get back to those numbers but obviously, being 30 to 50 crossing guards away, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Cilke. The city likes to place two crossing guards at every school during busy drop-off and pick-up times. But, it will have to adjust given lower staffing levels.

“The first impact is that some schools that receive low levels of traffic, we will reduce from two crossing guards to one crossing guard to ensure that we still have coverage to as many schools as we possibly can,” said Cilke. “If we’re not able to do that, then again, trying to prioritize those schools by total traffic and need. It’s possible that some schools in the past that had crossing guards might not have crossing guards.”

So, the department is setting up at job fairs, growers’ markets, and senior centers to help recruit. The idea of upping pay for the position has even been floated around to incentivize people to join.

“It’s so important for us to recruit and get numbers up so we can provide adequate service to as many schools as we possibly can,” said Cilke. Information on applying to become a crossing guard is available on the City of Albuquerque website.