In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker is activating the National Guard to help with the shortage in bus drivers. In North Carolina, lawmakers are hoping to ease a cafeteria worker shortage by giving districts federal funding to cover signing bonuses for new hires. And some Missouri districts are wiping away some of the requirements to become a substitute teacher to attract more applicants.
This is the reality for much of the country just weeks into the new school year, according to Chip Slaven, interim director for the National School Boards Association.
Across the country, school districts are desperate to fill jobs. Some are struggling to retain counselors, teachers and principals, but a more urgent need seems to be for employees who have traditionally operated behind the scenes, a crisis that was exacerbated with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus has scared away workers who are wary of face-to-face interaction with children, and the federal government’s pandemic unemployment benefits, which recently ended, spurred some to wait for better opportunities.
The shortages have affected families, already under stress. Since the first day of classes, Melissa Minter has driven her three children every morning to middle school and high school in the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. A severe staffing shortage has forced bus drivers to make multiple trips, turning what should be a 15-minute bus ride into an hour-and-a-half odyssey.
Dona Rose Nero has been a bus driver in the Evesham Township School District, in Marlton, N.J., for 17 years, and receives health care benefits because her seniority allows her to add more hours. She works coveted midday shifts, in addition to both mornings and afternoons, for a total of six hours per day, or 30 hours per week.
Many of these workers are older; they often take on these jobs to supplement their Social Security checks. But with the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are choosing to retire early to reduce the risk of exposure.
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