CASA GRANDE -- When Roberto Flores goes to work at 7 a.m. each day, he takes three items with him — a neon yellow vest, an umbrella and a hand-held stop sign. He puts on sunblock and ensures he has plenty of water.
As a school crossing guard at one of Casa Grande’s busiest intersections, Flores is tasked with ensuring that children at Casa Grande Middle School and Saguaro Elementary School safely cross Pinal Avenue and McMurray Boulevard on their way to and from school every day.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Flores said. “But it can be tough. Sometimes drivers are impatient. They don’t always want to stop and sometimes they stop halfway through the crosswalk.”
There are 19 crossing guards in the Casa Grande Elementary School District. Every school day, twice a day, they are posted near schools to safely usher students across streets and to encourage drivers to slow down or stop for students.
Also known as “morning and afternoon assistants,” crossing guards often help the schools with other tasks as well, said CGESD Communications and Marketing Specialist Mike Cruz.
“Some will help with supervision on campus or assist in other capacities at each school such as monitoring halls or helping with events,” Cruz said. “They are stationed at each of the elementary and middle schools to provide safety crossing services at arrival and end of day dismissal.”
From setting up the reduce-speed school zone signs to performing crossing duties, each crossing guard’s shift is about an hour and a half.
On a typical day, anywhere from 40 to 60 elementary and middle school students cross the intersection at Pinal Avenue and McMurray Boulevard, before and after school.
Flores, who also works in the middle school cafeteria, has been the crossing guard at the intersection for four years.
“I love this job,” he said. “It feels wonderful seeing these kids every day on their way to school.”
Over the years, he’s come to know many of the kids. They chat with him as he escorts them across the street and they often tell him highlights of their day.
As crossing the street only takes a few seconds, each conversation is brief.
“I like hearing their stories,” Flores said. “Even when I see them at the library or in the grocery store, they always say ‘hi’ and want to talk to me.”
One day, one student brought him a Popsicle.
“It was a really hot day so I appreciated that Popsicle,” Flores said.
Crossing guards work rain or shine, whether it’s 110 degrees or a cool winter day. Flores said he doesn’t mind the hot or the cold days, but he doesn’t like the rain.
When it does rain, his umbrella comes in handy. Most days, he uses it to protect himself from the sun’s rays, but when it rains, it keeps him dry.
Pay for district crossing guards starts at $12 per hour but goes up based on experience.
After four years on the job, Flores is one of the senior crossing guards and sometimes helps train new employees.
“I tell them what to look out for. It can be dangerous,” Flores said.
Flores said neither he nor any of the children have ever been struck by a motorist while he was on duty, but there have been some near-misses.
“One time a semi-truck almost didn’t stop. I guess he didn’t see me in the road,” Flores said. “Drivers always seem to be in a hurry.”