Staffing shortages greet MCPS students after winter break

Heather Jauquet

By the numbers: What Wednesday held for students and staff

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Empty classroom seatsMarco Fileccia/Unsplash

The numbers from staff absences are reported by anonymously across the county. For the sake of anonymity, no sources are identified.

After winter break, the first week back to school started with chaos as more than 92 bus routes were canceled, leaving students stranded at bus stops. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) sent a community letter surprised at the unexpected unavailability of drivers. And the rest of the week continued with the lack of transportation. Families were encouraged to carpool or walk students to school in what teachers call a tone-deaf call to action from MCPS.

Lack of class coverage as teachers and staff called out due to illness

As MCPS stubbornly refuses to move to virtual instruction, teachers feel dejected and demoralized as schools scramble for class coverage. Schools across the county saw severe staffing shortages the first day after break. Teachers and staff are at their breaking point as they do their best to support their students despite the lack of reports they are receiving from the school system.

Only 25% of the school system’s substitutes picked up jobs on Wednesday, January 4, leaving schools to combine classes or shuffle students to the cafeteria with a monitor and no lesson plans.

Other Maryland school systems move to virtual learning to help mitigate the spread of the virus as MCPS backpedals from their threshold indicators, maintaining in-person learning. In a recent community update, MCPS refers to the state’s recommendations to use threshold numbers to align with the rest of the country.

Across the county, people are questioning the interim superintendent’s lack of consistency in the decision-making. Staff and parents want to know: What is the plan? And why aren't we sticking with the plan?

The black and forth with the constant changes followed by empty platitudes is exhausting"--MCPS Employee

The numbers you need to know

This is a small representation of the schools' staff shortages on the first day back after the winter break. With the rise of COVID-19 cases throughout Montgomery County, teachers fear that the number of absent staff will only continue to rise.

Teachers are asking for a reprieve by having MCPS move to virtual instruction for at least two weeks so that teachers and staff to help with the rise in staff illnesses. For example you may have a math teacher teaching American Sign Language or French 3, depending on where she is needed throughout the day.

The numbers from staff absences are reported anonymously across the county.

Churchill High School—20+ staff absences, 6 substitutes

Clopper Mill Elementary School—18 staff members and 10 teachers absent, 2 substitutes available, 1 out of 3 buses running routes

Damascus ES—21 staff absences

Daly ES—21 teacher absences. No substitute teachers picked up any of the open jobs. The teachers covered cafeteria duty.

Gaithersburg Middle School—26 Staff absences, including the cafeteria team

Montgomery Village MS—7 teacher absences and 1 secretary absent, 7 paraeducator vacancies (no one has been hired to fill these permanent positions because there are no applicants for the positions). On Monday, January 10, there will be 8 staff absences at the time of this article.

Northwest High School—26 teachers absent, 0 substitutes. Everyone was asked to cover classes. The front office was tasked with securing class coverages and COVID-19 contact tracing.

Paint Branch High School—27 teachers absences, 7 substitutes arrived, 1 security guard on duty

Pyle Middle School—10 staff absences, icy parking lot

Quince Orchard High School—The stairs leading to portables were still covered in snow.

Redland Middle School—15 staff absences, 1 substitute.

Rocky Hill Middles School—18 teacher absences, 3 substitutes available.

Sherwood High School—No heat when staff came to the building. Was rectified before the end of the day.

Springbrook HS—30-32 Teachers absent

Strawberry Knoll Elementary School—11 Staff absences

Takoma Park Middle School—11 staff were out with no staff. There weren’t enough teachers to cover classes and students were sent to the cafeteria.

Wheaton Woods Elementary School—17 professional staff absent, 9 support staff out, only 3 subs

How are the staffing shortages impacting your child's learning? What do you think of MCPS' decision to continue with in-person learning despite the rising COVID-19 cases across the county? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

This article is a multi-part series on how MCPS is handling the pandemic in its school system.

Heather Jauquet has a Masters degree as a Reading Specialist from Johns Hopkins University. She holds a highly qualified certification to teach grades 1-8 and specialized reading instruction for grades K-12.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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