Schools in Calaveras County are looking forward to a new school year, though some are still struggling to fill staff positions.
Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) begins its 2022-23 academic year on July 27, despite having close to 30 positions unfilled as of July 20.
CUSD encompasses Calaveras High School, Toyon Middle School, Jenny Lind Elementary, Mokelumne Hill Elementary, West Point Elementary, Valley Springs Elementary, and San Andreas Elementary.
The district has already filled over 40 positions for the new school year, bringing total staff turnover to about 25%, and continues to interview for the remaining positions.
Superintendent Mark Campbell stated, “Staffing for the upcoming school year is a significant concern.”
While school is scheduled to resume on time, some classes have been canceled due to not having teachers, and class sizes may be increased to accommodate the changes.
Campbell also stated that CUSD administration “may have to cover classes due to vacant positions, and positions where staff are absent and we can't get subs,” in addition to teachers having more students “and/or covering classes on their prep periods (where applicable).”
Bret Harte Union High School District (BHUHSD), a smaller district that consists of one high school and a continuation school, is having better luck filling open positions, with all teaching positions filled for the new school year.
Superintendent Scott Nanik stated that despite the workforce shortages, BHUHSD “will continue to be creative and competitive to attract the best possible employees.” School doesn’t start for Bret Harte students until Aug. 17, so the district still has time to fill an open position for a school registrar and hire special education paraeducators and bus drivers, which Nanik said they “are always looking for.”
Calaveras County schools are not the only ones having difficulty finding teachers and staff. Nationwide, there is a shortage of teachers, a trend that worsened during the last school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Campbell also attributed the current shortage to “burnout, retirement, resignations, leaving for better-paying jobs, etc.”
A poll published in February 2022 found “an alarming 55% of educators now indicating that they are ready to leave the profession they love earlier than planned,” according to the National Education Association. Additionally, a study published by the California Department of Education found that statewide, only 83.1% of classrooms are taught by teachers who are fully credentialed and/or qualified to teach their prospective subjects, while in Calaveras County, the rate was even lower at 75.95%. This means that up to 24% of students in the county are being taught by teachers who are outside their field of study or are interns or substitutes assigned on a provisional or limited basis, to cover a need.
It’s not just teachers that are in high demand. Bus drivers, substitute teachers, and other school staff are lacking as well. The same workforce shortages that have impacted other industries are hitting schools hard.
Mark Twain Union Elementary School District (MTUESD) is also struggling to fill positions in its schools, which include Copperopolis Elementary and Mark Twain Elementary. Superintendent Paula Wyant stated, “staffing for all positions is concerning,” adding, “[w]e have had very little success with recruitment and limited housing is a part of that equation.”
MTUESD is currently seeking applicants in a variety of positions including a 5th/6th-grade teacher, long-term substitutes, and has classified paraprofessional, transportation, food service, and facility openings. The first day of school for MTUESD is Aug. 17.
Vallecito Union School District (VUSD), which consists of Hazel Fischer Elementary, Albert Michelson Elementary, and Avery Middle School, is also seeking classified employees—paraprofessionals, a bus driver, and a food service worker. Additionally, VUSD is seeking to hire one more special education teacher and a school counselor. The district filled multiple positions already over the summer and is hopeful they’ll fill the remaining positions prior to school starting on Aug. 17, according to Superintendent Tom Hoskins.
Countywide, schools are preparing for another academic year despite the dwindling supply of qualified teachers and continuing concerns over COVID-19.
Campbell is optimistic about the new school year at CUSD, which starts weeks before others in the county and has the most positions left unfilled.
“We will maximize our resources, will deploy all available staff to provide the best quality program supports and services possible, while continuing the diligent search for qualified staff to fill our vacancies and join our team,” stated Campbell.