MADISON (WKOW) - Districts across Wisconsin struggle every year to find enough crossing guards to staff every school zone, but the hiring process gets even more difficult when winter weather rolls in.
Jim Beyler has been a crossing guard in Madison for nearly eight months, but he said January has been a chilly wake-up call.
"I was fortunate because I started in the spring when the weather was still nice," he said.
He serves the corner of Regent St. and Spooner St. every school day. Beyler said he makes an extra effort in this frigid weather to put on a warm smile.
"I thought, I better get prepared for this," he said. "It's gonna get worse than this too."
On a typical day, crossing guards work outside for two roughly 90-minute shifts but when the temperatures are as cold as they were Thursday morning, it can be difficult to find the right people to step up.
Madison's Crossing Guard Coordinator Patti Knoche said it's a problem for every district, all year round.
"Our biggest challenge right now, we have several positions that we're trying to open in the next month or so," she said.
Knoche said Madison is better off than most districts. She said few guards have called in during the winter months and those who are leaving the staff are doing so for personal reasons.
Still, she said filling part-time positions for two shifts hours apart is never easy.
"It takes a unique individual to meet that schedule so the pay has to be right," Knoche said.
This time of year adds an additional challenge.
"Simply because of the snow, the ice, the bitter cold, and the unexpected weather," Knoche said.
To help guards cope with those conditions, Madison provides parkas and a winter clothing allowance but Knoche said it takes more than that to bring staff back to their corners every day.
She said they're looking for people with a passion for helping others and Beyler said he plans to fit the bill for as long as he's able.
"I enjoy it and I love the kids," he said. "The kids are awesome."
For Beyler, that's enough to get him through his snowiest shift.