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Crossing Over: Popular Fort Worth crossing guard loses job over new fitness requirements

FORT WORTH -- For many of the parents and students at Sonny and Allegra Nance Elementary School in Fort Worth, his smile and wave have been a daily treat for years.

His name is William Burke, and he's been a crossing guard at Nance for almost a decade.

"He has helped our babies across the street, held their hands, knows all their names," said Jachelle Wood, a parent and PTA member at the school.

"I and a couple of these other ladies have personally seen him jump in front of a car to save the children," Nance grandmother Laurie Whestine added, "

"He's always here, and he always has a smiling face, greeting everybody," said Shawna Josephson, another parent at the school. "He's just amazing."

Yeah, folks around here love Mr. Burke, and it's safe to say the feeling is mutual.

"I enjoy it, being out here with these kids and everything," Burke told NewsFix. "The way they come by, I get hugs from them and everything else."

That's what makes today such a sad day at Nance Elementary; it's Mr. Burke's last day as a crossing guard.

The city brought in a new crossing guard management company, with new physical fitness requirements.  Requirements Mr. Burke couldn't quite pass.

"But we're not the only ones," Wood points out. "I heard many people lost their jobs across Fort Worth yesterday because of the test."

Many in the community question the fairness of the physical evaluation - does a crossing guard really need to be able to look behind him while jumping on one foot? - but the management company says the rules are there for the safety of students and the guards themselves, and they're not likely to make an exception, as much as they might like to.

So this Fort Worth community is among those losing a member of the family, and whoever replaces folks like Mr. Burke has some big shoes to fill--and an opportunity to make a bigger difference than you might think.

"He's more than a crossing guard," said Tanya Jackson, "He's the first face a lot of our families see.  The first smile of the day.  He starts them off on the right foot with a high five and a pat on the back.  You can't beat that."