Teacher shortage plagues summer school
“We’re not sure we can fully staff them,” Redlinger said, as she also sympathized with exhausted educators who need time off to recharge.
As school systems open for summer sessions, some are seeing the fallout from a punitive pandemic school year. Many would say that the 2021-2022 school year was some of the toughest they’ve seen – with extreme staff shortages, clashes over masking and quarantines, nationwide political uproar, widespread burnout, students who needed extra support and, as one school leader put it, “uncertainty around every corner.”
Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA, the Association of School Superintendents, said summer programs have not been spared some of the same issues. Federal pandemic relief funds have helped school systems, but they are being used in a wide range of efforts.
“The effort to catch up with the children will not be fully realized because the staff are not there to do it,” he said. School districts “offer everything they can offer.”
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Summer courses, once considered remedial courses, have evolved over the years. Students attend to earn credits, catch up academically, avoid learning loss, explore new topics, or participate in enrichment activities. Many are inexpensive or free, specifically aimed at vulnerable students. Community organizations and other groups also offer summer camps, activities and learning programs.
In Madison, Wis., the school system’s “summer semester” included places for 3,520 students, but not for the hundreds more who wanted or needed them. Emails were sent on June 1 saying there was no more space.
“We have received tremendous interest from families who want to participate,” school officials wrote. “While this is great news, we are unfortunately experiencing some unforeseen staffing issues.”
The Madison Metropolitan School District, which has 26,500 students, is paying less this summer than it did last year, when it used federal pandemic relief funds to boost the salaries of teachers at $40 an hour, spokesman Tim LeMonds said. Teachers are getting $28 an hour this summer — with federal money directed elsewhere.
Still, this year’s base salary of $28 an hour reflects a 12% increase from the previous base salary of $25 an hour, LeMonds noted. The school system continues to recruit teachers and was recently able to re-enroll 100 of the 700 students who were turned away. “We are working very hard to continue in this direction,” he said. They also connect families to community programs, he said.
Elsewhere, salary increases or eye-catching bonuses have been successful in attracting staff – or officials are finding other creative ways to deliver well-staffed programs. St. Louis Public Schools is paying teachers $40 an hour this year, up from about $25 an hour last year. Support staff pay jumped $10 an hour above the usual rate.
“This is the first time we’ve had a waiting list to run summer schools,” said Charles Burton, the school system’s director of human resources.
To pique student interest, summer school in St. Louis is designed as a “summer camp,” with hands-on, experiential learning for all and Friday field trips for younger students. Over 6,000 students have enrolled, more than last year – and about 30% of the district’s 20,000 students.
Others took different paths. Los Angeles officials said they were focused on hiring teachers throughout the school year, adding nearly 2,500; they don’t expect shortages of summer schools. “We are confident that we will have enough teachers to do the job,” said Ileana Davalos, director of human resources.
Davalos said working in the summer months always allows educators to catch their breath; the hours are shorter and the programs do not start immediately. “It’s time to freshen up,” she said.
Salary increases are not without compromise. Rising hourly pay rates in one area can mean neighboring school systems struggle to hire staff, said Ronn Nozoe, chief executive of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “Neighboring neighborhoods are suffering,” he said.
The 2021-2022 school year was once thought to mark a return to normal. Instead, the in-person school coincided with staffing shortages that left many teachers covering extra classes during their planning periods. Other employees mobilized for cleaning and the cafeteria. In several regions, National Guard troops have mobilized to drive school buses.
At the same time, schools have faced coronavirus surges and heated debate over masking and quarantine policies. Parents argued over whether schools were really safe. And the political issues have intensified, amid book bans and uproar over critical race theory and the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Maryland teacher Leslie Appino, who works in the state’s largest school system in Montgomery County, said the 2021-2022 stressors were unlike anything else in her two-year career. decades. Usually she teaches in the summer, but this year the constant demands and pressure—the “sheer exhaustion” of it all—made summer work a bigger decision.
“I debated back and forth,” she said — ultimately won over by the extra income and in-person classes. “I can’t wait to be there,” she said.
Educators support summer schools and summer camps, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “They know the programs are extremely important for children,” she said. Any shortages for the summer likely reflect year-end burnout and the ongoing national shortage of teachers, Weingarten said.
High schools in Independence, Missouri, made summer school more appealing this year by moving to four-day school weeks — so there are three-day weekends throughout the school year. ‘summer. “It helped with recruiting,” said Van Horn High School vice-principal Randy Oliver.
School systems pay for summer school with a combination of federal, state or local funds because in all but three states there is no dedicated funding stream, said Jennifer McCombs, research director at Learning Policy Institute, a national education think tank. During lean budget years, some resource-strapped districts don’t offer summer school, she said. But the pandemic has drawn attention to the expansion of summer learning — and billions of federal dollars have been directed to schools, some of which can be used in the summer. Research has shown that the cost of a five-week, district-run program for six hours a day (including academic instruction and enrichment activities) averaged about $1,500 per student in 2020, McCombs said.
In North Marion School District in Oregon — about 40 minutes from Portland — Superintendent Redlinger said the rural district of 1,670 students expects a smaller program than last year, in part because many older students are exhausted.
Still, Redlinger estimates she needs to hire 11 more teachers and seven more assistants to cover a variety of summer offerings, including a program for migrant children and a high school session in August. Teachers are receiving pandemic pay of $65 an hour this year, though Redlinger wants to make sure educators have time to recuperate after two difficult years. “They need it and they deserve it,” she said.
In Virginia, Arlington is doing better than last year – when it had to notify parents that its program for 5,000 students was reduced by 40% for lack of teachers. This year, nearly 4,900 students are enrolled, spokesman Frank Bellavia said, with 25 teaching vacancies, he said.
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One change: bonuses have been doubled this year: $2,000 for teachers and $1,000 for teaching assistants.
But that didn’t go so well for a residential summer program focused on medicine and health sciences, offered by the Governor’s Schools of Virginia. State officials canceled the program, intended for high school students, for lack of staff, said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education. They hope to find places in their other summer programs for the 26 students who have been affected.
Prior to this year, Pyle said, programs were canceled due to the pandemic, but “this is the first time a program has been canceled due to staffing shortages.”