School districts must become more creative
Across Ohio, school districts are dealing with a darned if they do, darned if they don’t scenario in which sticking with in-person, in-building schooling has created nearly as many challenges as going fully remote did last year. Staffing shortages range from bus drivers to substitute teachers. One administrator in Canton told a media outlet there the need for substitute teachers in every district is far outweighing the pool of people willing to take the job.
In Cuyahoga Falls, the superintendent told a television reporter in addition to needing teachers in classrooms and drivers for buses, there is also a problem with food service.
“We have nine restaurants, when you think about it,” Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Todd Nichols said. “Nine restaurants serving kids two meals a day, and they are short-staffed.”
Around Ohio and locally, we have heard similar stories, particularly about the difficulty in finding both school bus drivers and substitute teachers willing and able to take jobs. We are aware many substitute teachers are retired teachers who might fall into a more vulnerable age bracket when it comes to exposure to COVID-19.
Some districts have tried financial incentives to fill the spots, with some success — but increased pay is not sustainable.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s a rate of pay issue. I think it’s just a matter of people wanting to work in a public sector environment with a lot of other people around all at the same time,” Nichols said.
School districts all over the Buckeye State will have to come up with something creative. The kinds of disruptions caused by a lack of teachers, substitutes, bus drivers and support staff can be just as damaging to some kids as remote learning might be to others. Either way, we’re not doing right by our kids.
The rest of us can get vaccinated and do all in our power to stop this virus. But while they wait for communities to stop the spread, school districts are going to have to get creative if we are to avoid another nearly lost year for Ohio students.