R-III school district battles with staff shortages

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 10/4/21

Staff shortages continue to be a challenge for the Warren County R-III School District.

While finding enough substitutes to fill teaching absences has been an ongoing dilemma, additional barriers …

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R-III school district battles with staff shortages

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Staff shortages continue to be a challenge for the Warren County R-III School District.

While finding enough substitutes to fill teaching absences has been an ongoing dilemma, additional barriers in the transportation department and other classified staff areas have surfaced as well.

“Every district is having a hard time finding people to fill positions,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “We don’t know why, necessarily. For us it could be pay. We need to increase our pay for all our staff, but the shortage of pay is one of our main barriers.”

In addition to substitute teachers, the district is also facing shortages in bus drivers, custodial staff and paraprofessionals.
School board members voted during their work session on Sept. 23 to hire three full-time substitutes. These staff members will be under full-time teaching contracts that require them to be in the buildings throughout the year, filling whatever positions might be vacant on a given day.

“We have between 25 and 45 positions that need to be filled daily,” said Klinginsmith. “Only about 10 to 12 positions end up get filled by substitutes every day. That leaves a lot of positions to be covered by other staff members.”

In such a circumstance, other teachers would fill in for the absences during their plan time. This results in lesson planning and developmental tasks having to be done outside of school hours.

“We very much appreciate our teachers and administrators being willing to step in to help keep the doors open,” said Klinginsmith.
R-III is in the first year of its contract with a new substitute provider, having switched from Penmac to EduStaff.

“We have about the same number of people in the pool of substitutes, but they don’t work every day and are not always available,” said Klinginsmith. “Thats why we need some people who are going to be here every day.”

For transportation services, the district has just enough drivers to manage all the bus routes if no one is absent. During a recent wave of quarantines, the department had to improvise to ensure each student was transported to and from school.

“During that time we had about one-third of our drivers out,” said Klinginsmith. “We had to adjust routes, and people from within the transportation office had to go drive buses. Some students were getting picked up 45 minutes later than they normally would have.”

With shortages in custodial staff, tasks are having to be prioritized, while others are left incomplete.

“Some things just aren’t getting done, unfortunately,” said Klinginsmith. “We’re still disinfecting, but we might not be able to get things as deep cleaned as we would like. We are taking care of the basics. If we need to shampoo carpets or scrub the floor really good, we’re struggling to get that level of cleaning done.”

While there is also a need for more paraprofessionals, the district is managing to cover those deficits. R-III has not faced concerns with the number of full-time teachers or food service staff, although applicant pools were smaller in some specialized curriculum areas.

“If anybody is interested in working with kids during the daytime, we’ll have a spot for them,” said Klinginsmith.

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