Anyone who’s worked in schools knows that though the teachers are the ones who are often discussed at the center of the workforce, but the support staff are really who make it all run. There are just too many critical pieces of the educational pie that sit outside of the classroom and every district needs folks to keep the whole thing chugging along. But that could be a bigger problem this year for many districts than ever before. It’s because the Great Resignation isn’t just hurting the private and retail sectors. It’s affecting schools as well and many are concerned they will start the school year without enough support staff personnel to fill even the most baseline positions.
A piece by Chalkbeat this week outlined the problem in many districts when it comes to hiring support staff to ensure the school district and schools themselves can operate as intended. One particular area of concern is with bus drivers who are becomingly increasingly difficult to replace. In the wake of the pandemic when schools went virtual throughout the country, many support staff were forced to find other employment. For drivers, this came in the form of places like Amazon and other delivery services. The Chalkbeat reporting focused on Houston, but it is an issue in many major cities. In Buffalo, schools are also facing a major bus driver shortage that could severely impact the start of the school year.
But it’s not just bus drivers that schools are falling short on in staffing. It’s basically across the board when it comes to school support staff. Janitors and custodial school staff shortages have prevailed since the pandemic and numerous districts are still reporting issues when it comes to hiring. With many buildings to maintain within each district, custodial staffing is integral in maintaining a safe and clean environment for students. And that’s becoming compromised as districts struggle to fill ongoing vacancies.
These kinds of school staffing shortages throughout the country have meant districts upping their employment offers and packages in order to entice qualified folks either back or into work. According to Chalkbeat, Burbio is a company that tracks these kinds of hiring practices and incentives, saying the numbers for job offers among school districts is most-definitely ticking up when it comes to not only hourly rates but signing bonuses as well. This is all with federal aid handed out during the pandemic set to expire, leaving districts to make up the costs as they struggle to pay more competitive rates.
But will it be enough for schools to operate come the fall? For some, it’s going to be a close call. Almost certainly what will happen is the current workforce will be overextended to make up for the current school staffing shortages. This, among other things, has been a big inducer of burnout in both the private and public sectors. Schools are no different. Schools must get cleaned and bus routes must be run regardless and it falls on those still there to ensure they happen. But at what cost? It’s why administrators continue to worry about burnout among their current staff while they also know staffing shortages loom for the fall. It’s almost like a no-win situation.