Staffing shortages are pushing the St. Maries School District to get creative.
The district was short bus drivers this year and had to absorb three routes. This has made some routes longer, requiring students to be ready earlier or be dropped off later.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen,” Transportation Supervisor Janie Allen wrote in her report to the board. “There are still a lot of unknowns but one thing I’ve been worried about is bus overloading.”
At this time student counts average approximately 35 students per route, which is well within the seating capacities of 65 and 71 per bus.
“We have had calls from parents about the later drop-off times,” Allen wrote. “There were a few who were upset but the majority of them understood the circumstances and were very nice.”
The board approved a few adjustments to the new routes at their September meeting.
“The transportation department found a few glitches with the routes that were approved in August and came up with ideas to make them safer,” Superintendent Alica Holthaus said.
In addition to consolidating bus routes, the district has also had to enact a new emergency provision to certify teachers.
The board approved an exception that allows Aaron Cloud to teach a higher level of mathematics without the traditionally required endorsement, and also allows Michael Ebert to teach history at the middle school without a teaching certificate.
“In this time while we are having a teacher shortage the state gives us alternative options to have people teach who don’t have a traditional teaching certificate,” Holthaus said. “The emergency authorization allows someone with a bachelor of science degree or higher to teach for one year without having to have a degree in education.”
The history position at the middle school came open late last year. A teacher was hired to fill the position in August, however that person resigned in the first week of school.
“That left us short and so we were able to use the emergency provision to higher Mr. Ebert,” Holthaus said. “He was a good find and we are thrilled to have him.”
The teacher shortage is a newer problem that has come about in the last several years.
“I’ve been doing administration for a while now and we used to have 100 applications for every teaching position,” Holthaus said. “It was hard to narrow it down then. Now we basically hire every qualified application that comes through.”
She said the state of Idaho is short approximately 300 teachers this year.
Aside from staffing issues, the school board meeting was “business as usual” Holthaus said.
“We have had a really smooth start for the year,” she said.
Enrollment sits at 960 students which is 21 more than this time last year. The largest increase is seen at the high school. Holthaus said the increase is average growth for the district for at least the last 5 years.
• • •
The school board is set to attend the annual convention Nov. 9-11 in Coeur d’Alene. The convention is where the board receives its training each year and is updated on new state rules and regulations. Trustee elections are typically held in November each year. None of the trustees are up for election this year.
• • •
The board awarded a bid for heating oil to St. Joe Oil. The district uses electric heat in some of its buildings and oil in others.
• • •
The board reviewed and approved the 2022-2023 school emergency and safety plan. This is an annual requirement. The only significant change will be that the district will go back to single-door entry and exit for their buildings. The district deviated from that practice during the COVID epidemic in order to allow for social distancing.
• • •
The board agreed to continue a contract with Valley Vista Care Corporation for occupational therapy services for special education students.
• • •
The board also approved applications for in-lieu of transportation for a handful of students whose parents are paid to bring their child to the closest bus stop rather than having a bus drive up to their house.
• • •
The board reviewed policy governing use of school property and equipment. One notable change is that any person wishing to use the kitchen facilities must have a food handlers license.