'We need you:' Area school districts desperately seeking staff as shortages force closure

·4 min read
Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools
Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools

Staffing shortages are catching up to local school districts and, in one instance this week, caused a district shutdown.

All Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools closed Monday because the district said it did not have enough staff available in the transportation department to work. There was no school for three days last week related to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The staff shortages are throughout the district, according to the early morning district alert.

In an email to parents Monday evening, Superintendent Tom Bratten blamed the ongoing staffing shortages not only on COVID-19, "but simply illness in the community, coupled with the severe lack of substitutes at all levels of our organization."

He said schools would be open Tuesday with normal bus routes "unless you hear differently in a future communication from the district due to some unforeseen circumstance."

District administrators met Monday to come up with a plan to allow education to continue "if a transportation issue like this occurs in the future," Bratten said.

Information will be shared later this week, Bratten said.

The school district website says it is looking to hire bus drivers, substitute teachers and for other openings.

Stow agrees to relax standards for subs

The Stow-Munroe Falls closure comes one week after the school board reluctantly approved a resolution recognizing a new state measure that relaxes the standards for substitute teachers.

Senate Bill 1 allows schools to hire substitutes who do not hold a post-secondary degree, as is typically required, for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year.

The state board of education must issue a non-renewable temporary substitute teaching licenses, and substitutes still must meet all other Ohio laws and regulations.

The temporary change was made in response to the lack of available substitutes.

Stow-Munroe Falls is adding some teeth to the measure by requiring a high school diploma and at least three recommendations from district employees, one of which must be an administrator.

"I'll be honest, this stinks," Board Vice President Jason Whitacre said. "You're at a point where there's such a shortage that basically, no offense, if you have a pulse without a record, show up and we'll have you babysit the children. You can't expect them to qualitatively teach, so you're just asking them to not fall asleep."

The district has been dealing with a substitute shortage despite a team of floater subs, who are given a stipend for exclusively working with Stow-Munroe Falls School District.

Bratten said that it's not only teachers who have been out sick, but also cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians.

"Our people in general have been asked to suck it up for two years, and honestly, they're exhausted," Bratten said. "They're worn out and they're run down and it's catching up to them because they have worked so hard over the last two years and have tried to do everything they can to come to work every single day. "

Districts throughout Akron area facing shortages

Other school districts said staffing is often tight as well.

The issue is tied to a national labor shortage in numerous sectors and industries, with job openings exceeding the number of people available or willing to work.

Dr. Joe Clark, the superintendent with the Nordonia Hills City Schools, said the district has had to get creative to keep the school doors open due to a lack of substitutes and teachers.

"It's fair to say it's bad everywhere, including Nordonia," Clark said on Monday. "We have an average of 5 to 15 classrooms we don't have subs for. We have assigned principals, counselors and administrators to those classrooms. I think it's fair to say on any given day we are perilously close to being in the situation Stow has found itself in today."

Clark said the Nordonia Hills school board also has approved allowing substitutes for kindergarten through fifth grade to teach if they have a high school diploma or equivalent.

For those teaching sixth through 12th grades, prospective substitute teachers need to have an associate degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher education or have completed at least two years of coursework at an accredited institution of higher education.

"Every school district needs subs and if you are looking to work your own hours and choose you buildings, call your school district and get on the sub list as soon as possible," Clark said. "Please call. We need you."

Brian J. Williams, the assistant superintendent with the Copley-Fairlawn City Schools, said the district is still mulling whether to use the state legislation to hire substitutes with only a high school degree.

"We have not taken that step yet," Williams said.

However, the Copley-Fairlawn schools also have had shortages of teachers and substitutes, Williams said. He said the district has "definitely had to get creative in how we cover classes."

"In general, certainly we are not immune," Williams said. "We are experiencing staff shortages, like most districts in Ohio. We've never had to close, hope we never get to that point, but we are experiencing shortages as well."

If anyone were interesting in becoming a substitute teacher or bus driver, ""we'd love to talk to them," Williams said.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: All Stow-Munroe Falls schools closed Monday due to staffing shortages

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