Utah – School districts across the state are seeing staffing shortages. Most districts hired most of if not all teachers they need. But there are hundreds of openings when it comes to special education workers and education support professionals like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and teacher assistants.
According to districts, it’s all hands on deck to keep those departments running. “The support staff truly are the backbone of our operations. If we don’t have those folks we have a hard time running our schools and we are down about 120 people,” a spokesman for Canyon School District Jeff Haney said.
According to Canyon School District, 13 bus routes wouldn’t be covered if they didn’t have another staff help.
There is a shortage of bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and teacher’s assistants right now.
“All of our office staff in our transportation department, all of our maintenance guys, sometimes even our dispatch center, if they have a CDL license they are in a bus doing a route,” Haney said,
There’s also a lack of special education teachers. It’s difficult getting qualified people hired to work with students with disabilities, one teacher in the Alpine School District said.
“We don’t have enough people that are specially trained to work with our students, because it’s such a unique field. So, finding people and taking the time to train them takes a lot of effort from the teachers,” special education teacher for the blind Kalleth Warren said.
She said training new staff and additional paperwork from lack of staff means lower quality education for her students. “The more time I spend time doing paperwork, the less time I have with my students and that’s what’s really hurtful for them too,” Warren said.
One of the factors she pointed to is low pay. “I’m doing it because I love it but if it comes to a point where I hit poverty I will have to leave and seek employment more where I can actually live,” Warren said.
Some districts took steps to help fix the problem. For example, the Canyon school district said they increased employee pay by 6% and set new teachers’ base pay at $50,000 per year. They also asked people to step up for part-time positions, including parents, and show some compassion towards teachers.
“Please be kind to your teachers and service providers that work with your children it’s going to be a really rough year,” Warren said,
If you’re interested in a part-time or full-time position, check out your local district website.