STUART, Fla. — A school crossing guard shortage in Martin County has parents worried.
"It's a big deal," said parent Nichole Ferguson. "Especially since I only have a first-grader at Treasure Coast and she's on, you know, a one-track mind across the street, not looking both ways."
The Martin County Sheriff's Office said it is currently down nine crossing guards from a full staff of thirty-five.
An additional two are currently out with COVID-19.
"It's extremely important," said Ferguson. "Our kids are crossing the street. They have more visible, protective gear on to alert drivers."
"We posted it here internally," said Chief Deputy John Budensiek. "We put it on the website. We put it on Facebook."
Budensiek said the shortage is causing some areas to be left unattended.
"We had evolved into stopping traffic so buses could get out onto the road, so cars could get out on the road," said Budensiek. "So we have had to reevaluate that and go back to our roots which is just crossing children across the street."
Deputies and civilian service aids are also having to step in to help with staffing at an additional cost.
"I'm sure," said Ferguson. "A deputy's pay versus the $15 an hour crossing guard pay is pretty substantial that they're having to fill that gap."
Starting salaries for school crossing guards in Martin County begin at $15.04.
Applicants must be able to pass the same background test given to deputies.
"It's concerning," said Ferguson. "But it's also great to know that the sheriff's office is having deputies out there helping during that lap over."