“The truth doesn’t change based on our ability to digest it emotionally. “
– Flannery O’Connor
The term “hard truths” is a term that most adults are familiar with. People have always lived their lives with good times and bad times. Most of the time, we didn’t realize how good or bad something was until afterwards. Right now, we don’t need any more time to realize that we are living through a very difficult time and that we need to recognize some very hard truths.
Truth # 1: The pandemic and everything related to it, on all sides, is bad for children. They lost friendships, they lost their learning, they lost their sense of security. … They lost part of their life.
Truth # 2: Most of us lived in the hope of getting out of this pandemic and being able to focus on the huge socio-emotional and learning losses our children have suffered. Unfortunately, the world has not yet moved in this direction. The frustration of people with this disappointment has helped create an atmosphere of fear, anger and conflict among adults, creating a toxic stew that children swim in every day.
Truth # 3: The adults who usually carry the burden of healing children in a world that hits them are not immune to these factors. The shortage of staff who are willing and able to do the hard work of serving children and the community is significant. This is a national issue that also affects our local ability to serve.
In Massachusetts, the National Guard has been activated to drive buses to keep schools open.
North Carolina had 12,614 vacancies in July. This was 41.6% more than the average.
In an April 2021 survey conducted by the Frontline Research & Learning Institute, 67% of school districts nationwide reported shortages of substitutes.
As of February 2021, there were 66,000 fewer education graduates per year than in 2010. Of those currently teaching, 27% are in their first year of teaching and 29% are in the first 1-3 years of education according to the United States Department of Education, Title II annual report.
At WV, we lost 5.27% of our student body over a six-year period. During the same period, the number of people participating in teacher preparation programs in West Virginia fell 53.2%.
These are alarming statistics, but they are not as alarming as the reality. The pool of candidates has been declining in the field of education for a decade. Now they are in free fall. This is due to multiple factors including uncompetitive salaries, quarantines that put several staff aside and the physical / mental exhaustion of staff who have carried the workload of many people in order to maintain the schools. open. Many school systems in West Virginia have closed due to understaffing. Jefferson is subject to these same forces. It is important for families and students to be aware that these staff shortages could lead to the closure of individual schools, and possibly even the entire school system. We don’t expect that to happen, but we are ready, as always, to continue supporting students.
If a closure were to occur, affected schools would switch to distance education, as outlined in the JCS Pandemic Safe Schools Plan of Operations available on our website, www.jcswv.org.
JCS is now a one-to-one neighborhood. All students have access to Chromebooks and integrate them into the classroom to create familiarity.
We have created resources for households that may not have reliable internet access to ensure that students can continue to receive education.
We continue to put in place best practices and incentives to recruit and retain teachers and service staff in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Any switch to virtual learning would be as short as possible, and we have complete confidence in these staff, of whom we are extremely proud. We hope our community is also proud and committed to the success of our children. For those who want to help us get through this crisis:
Please consider becoming a substitute teacher. We can walk you through the process and cover the costs of background checks and certification. We provide mentorship and support from some outstanding teachers and building leaders.
Please consider volunteering at your child’s school. Anything you can do to support the staff, like make copies, answer the phone, sweep the halls, or just greet the children when they get off the bus, frees up a staff member who can use that time to plan lessons and prepare the material.
Consider becoming a PASS volunteer. This program provides training for citizens who wish to become a mentor for a child in need and an assignment for a child who could use a consistent and caring person in their life.
Be an ambassador for the system and a balm for our staff. In these difficult times, some people express their anger and frustration with the world by shooting others down in an attempt to feel like they are doing something about it. Our staff put their hearts into this work, but are physically and emotionally exhausted from meeting the incredible level of children’s needs while covering unfilled positions. To then experience the public disparagement, negativity and aggression of social media is demoralizing. If your school serves your children well and meets their needs, please take a moment to greet them. These little moments of gratitude mean so much to our bus drivers, guardians, teachers and principals who fight to keep schools every day.
You and your children have the commitment to this school system. We have kept our doors open throughout a pandemic that has shut down school systems across the country, we have kept our doors open during a summer when others closed due to understaffing, and we will do everything. our best to keep our doors open through this. We’re here for the kids and here for your family. Thank you for your trust and support as we work towards a better future.
– Bondy Shay Gibson-Learn, Ed.D is the Superintendent of Schools for Jefferson County.