Staffing shortages at school districts across US cause cancelations, anxiety among parents

School staffing shortages are plaguing districts from coast to coast. Classes have been canceled, principals are picking up mops and brooms to fill in for other positions, and some students have even stepped up to fill in vacant jobs following the coronavirus. 

“The reality is that these districts just don’t feel they have any other options than canceling school for the day. This should serve as a wakeup call that we need to do better by our students and our public schools,” Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehler said last week, according to USA Today. 

“There’s an overwhelming sense of exhaustion,” she added. 

Some Already, schools in Denver have made the switch to temporary remote learning to cope with the shortages and were among other schools across the U.S. that canceled classes on Friday to extend the observance of Veterans Day to a four-day weekend.

The issue isn’t an isolated one. Staff shortages have caused schools in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maryland, and Washington to cancel classes. 

More than 2,000 people live in Seattle. 600 Teachers requested Friday after Veterans Day off, forcing schools to cancel classes. The district attributed the influx of substitute teacher requests to the “the fatigue that educators and students are experiencing, locally and nationwide, 11 weeks into the return to in-class learning.” 

Parents are angry at the lack of teacher shortages, and some have tried to stop their children from attending classes. 

“They care about themselves more than they care about the kids,” one anonymous Pennsylvania parent ABC 6 teachers told.

San Diego Unified Schools District had planned to grant students Friday off for a mental-health day due to staff shortages, but parents resisted the idea. 

“It would have been great if it would have been on the calendar from the beginning. The parents I talked to all felt like ‘here we go again’ with just that regular stress of trying to manage childcare,” parent Jen Boynton, CBS 8.

Many of these shortages can be attributed to teachers returning to school this year after lockdowns in 2020, where they are faced with learning difficulties and mental health problems. There have been large demonstrations by teachers against the various vaccines mandates in their cities and states. 

Data from Education Week shows 40 percent of district leaders and principals would call their staffing situation “severe” or “very severe” this year. While stress stemming from the coronavirus last year is contributing to about a quarter of teachers nationwide contemplating quitting their jobs, RAND Corp found in a survey earlier this year. 

Only 5% of school administrators say staffing shortages are not an issue, while 18% say the shortages are “mild” or “very mild,” Education Week found. 

Some districts have to suspend classes temporarily in order to solve their problems, but others prefer financial incentives or pay raises as the solution. Michigan’s state superintendent for instance suggests that you invest between $25,000 and $45,000 in order to make your district more financially stable. $300-$500 millions over the next five years to recruit and retain teachers in the state. Substitute teachers in Philadelphia are becoming Pay increases of $50 per day. West Contra Costa County Unified, California offers a Teachers get $6,000 Bonus.

“We need to re-invest now. We need to rebuild the teacher profession,” Michigan superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said.

Biden’s administration supports teacher pay increases. First lady Jill Biden, who is a teacher, has said that “The bottom line” is getting more pay to educators, adding that it needs to “start from the top.”

However, some people are preparing for things to worsen. 

“What I’m concerned is the potential for a great resignation,” Maryland’s Montgomery County Education Association president Jennifer Martin told Wednesday, NBC 4

Montgomery County Public Schools lacks 161 teachers and 100 paraeducators. The remaining teachers in the district are struggling to help kids with mental health issues stemming from lockdowns during the pandemic and are reporting missing lunch breaks to cover classes that don’t have teachers. 

As district leaders juggle filling in the gaps of empty teaching jobs, they’re also coping with custodial, food service and bus driver shortages. Missouri’s district has its own hiring process Filling maintenance positions with students and food service positions within the school. 

“Some of the positions have been short-staffed since last year,” Northwest School District Kim Hawk, the district’s chief operating officer, told Fox 2 last week. “We just have struggled to find any help at all, and if you drive around and look at the help-wanted signs everywhere, you know the competition is stiff. So, we knew we had to come up with some other plan.”

In Nevada, Principals vacuum and mopping up schools amid a custodial shortage. 

“You just go into the kitchen and start stuffing some food into the little plastic bags and hand it out to the kids,” the principal of Gwendolyn Woolley Elementary School in North Las Vegas, Joseph Uy, told KUER last week.

“Honestly, I’m tired,” he added. 

Schools across the nation have been suffering from a bus driver shortage for several months. The state of Massachusetts called the National Guard will drive children to school in September with the help of its members. The grandfather California: Retired pilot started a new career this year and became a bus driver to help with the shortage. Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee is preparing for worsening of the situation. Drivers in the region are ready to strike this week.

Schools are being affected by the supply chain crisis in the United States. The supply chain crisis is causing some school districts to struggle with food and supplies for cafeterias, such as cups and plates. 

“We are hoping that deliveries arrive so that we don’t have to adjust our menu to ensure that our students receive meals,” Dimtra Barrios, the director of food service at the Ridley School District in Pennsylvania, Fox Business last month. Barrios said she is making trips to grocery stores and warehouse suppliers to “get whatever we can get our hands on to make it happen for our students to receive meals.”

Alabama is experiencing the same problem. Cayce Davis, who directs nutrition for schools in Elmore County, makes trips to Sam’s Club to pick up supplies and food for students as food deliveries are delayed due to the supply crisis. 

“This is a quick solution for our meal tomorrow, but it is not a solution to the problem,” Davis told CBS last month. “It appears that there are cracks at all points in the supply chain.” 

As districts continue scrambling to keep up with the shortages, for now, schools are looking at “all hands on deck” situations. 

“Everyone in our district rolled up our sleeves and covered for one another and made sure that we were able to continue to provide classes today in a thoughtful way,” Northshore, Washington, superintendent Michelle Reid said of her district remaining open last Friday despite shortages.

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