In the week since the return to school after the winter break, and in conjunction with a sharp rise of COVID-19 cases across the state, "staffing today continues to be a big hurdle," Superintendent Aaron Downs reported at the Canby School District board meeting on Jan. 10.
He noted that while illness is typical after breaks, the school has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in students and staff.
Director of Human Resources Michelle Riddell gave a presentation to the board regarding hiring efforts across the district. According to her report, the school district has hired 108 during the 2021-2022 school year, including three administrative staff, 43 classified staff and 62 licensed or certified staff.
Riddell said that the district had hired 45% more staff this school year than last. However, 24 of those newly hired licensed staff are temporary, covering leaves of absence or acting as floater teachers this year.
The district is still facing a few key vacancies, including one floater teacher at Baker Prairie Middle School, instructional assistants, nutritional services staff, custodians, "and, of course, substitutes," she said.
There are 52 licensed substitutes, five of whom are internal emergency subs, classified staff who obtained an emergency license to cover teacher absences during the pandemic. There is a smaller number of substitutes this year, and some may work in other districts as well as Canby.
"We definitely have opportunities for (substitutes) to work as much as they like," Riddell said.
While hiring has increased, so have resignations over the last year. During the 2021 calendar year, 81 staff resigned. In 2020, that number was 49 staff. Riddell said staff are leaving for a variety of reasons, including retirement, relocation or personal reasons.
Riddell also reported that the New Educator Pathway Program, which was created last year, is gaining traction. The program provides $5,000 annually to classified staff enrolled in teaching programs to support their education, with the goal of retaining those staff as teachers within the district. The program is funded by the Student Success Act and currently has two participants.
Staffing shortages are being felt in classrooms and across all school operations. Director of Facilities Larry Burich also reported that his department was down 3.5 full-time employee positions. The district was able to fill one grounds crew position but has had to switch to hiring part-time custodial staff, as those are the only applicants the district is receiving.
"The other piece of staff is employee fatigue, burnt out, with the increased demands of Covid protocol," Burich said.
But, the facilities team is working to become more efficient by reprioritizing needs and focusing on preventative maintenance, he said.
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