Longtime custodian mans the crosswalk at one of the busiest routes in Hays



By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Everyone has their own motivation for getting out of bed in the morning.

For Ron Berens, it's the chance to keep children safe while crossing a busy street on their way to school.

Berens has worked the late shift, from noon to 8:30 p.m., as a custodian at O'Loughlin Elementary School in Hays since the late 1990s.

A few years ago, the school needed a new crossing guard in the morning, and Berens decided to give it a try "to get up early," he said. Otherwise, "I'd probably just stay in bed," he added.

Now, he's the guy you see holding the stop sign in front of school at 1401 Hall each morning during the school year.

Berens has one of the most important jobs every morning.

He stops traffic on one of the busiest streets near an elementary school in Hays.

The street that runs in front of O'Loughlin also is the main street to get to other schools as well.

Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School is to the north of O'Loughlin, and Fort Hays State University is a few blocks to the south.

"It's really busy, and there are definitely a lot of cars going by," said Berens, who always is on the lookout for vehicles that don't heed the warning to stop.

"Most of them stop," he said. "But, once in a while, some keep going."

In those cases, it's Berens' responsibility to make the youngsters stay on their side of the street and up on the curb until the crossing guard indicates it's OK to come into the crosswalk.

Early-morning weather varies from mild spring temperatures to frigid days with temperatures below freezing.

Berens worked overnight for Halliburton, an oilfield services company, for more than 20 years before it closed its Hays location, so he was accustomed to the cold weather.

"It's not bad," he said. "You just bundle up."

After all the students are safely in the building, Berens is free to do what he wants until his custodian shift starts at noon.

Sometimes he goes to the donut shop to get donuts and coffee. And sometimes he just goes back home.

"If I feel like it," he said, "I lay back down until I go to work at 12."