SAUGUS (CBS) – A holiday tradition dating back 50 years will not be seen this year in Saugus.

Santa Claus will not be visiting any area elementary schools this year, as the Saugus firefighters that usually fulfill this duty will not have the time to make the appearances.

“We do Santa Claus, and we want to keep it going,” firefighter Bill Cross III said. “But right now, we need to step back.”

“It’s very disappointing. When you see the kid’s faces when we visit them it really puts you in the Christmas spirit,” Cross said.

This is the second consecutive year where Santa will not make the visit. Last year, the school’s superintendent cancelled the appearance for religious reasons, sparking national attention.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Jody Comeau, a parent of a Saugus Elementary student.

In the past, off duty firefighters would volunteer to dress up and visit the schools.

But with volunteer numbers lower than in previous years, the fire department simply can’t afford to lose the man power.

“We just don’t have the volunteers on the department like we used to. We use to have 55 now we are down to 40,” Cross said.

School committee member Arthur Grabowski says he would love to see more people volunteer their time and help the firefighters keep the tradition going.

“We are trying to accomodate everyone and keep the 50-year tradition going,” Grabowski said, hoping something can be worked out.

“It’s not a dead issue. It’s on life support.”

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