Eagle County Schools seeking substitute teachers, bus drivers
District has beefed up recruiting for substitute teachers; bonuses offered to bus drivers
Staffing is a challenge for most Vail Valley employers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made hiring more difficult for some organizations, including the Eagle County School District.
Dan Dougherty, the district’s communications officer, said the district has had to alter its recruiting and outreach for positions.
“We’re making more of a personal plea to community members about being a guest (substitute) teacher,” Dougherty said.
One of the hangups has been a slowdown in getting applicants’ fingerprints processed and criminal background checks completed.
Teachers may be gone longer
Finding substitutes has always been a challenge, Dougherty said. In this school year, district officials have to be prepared for longer teacher absences, since someone with COVID symptoms or an illness can count on being out of work for 10 to 14 days.
“We’re trying to get parents to consider” applying for substitute positions, Dougherty said. Substitute teachers can pick and choose assignments they take, and a parent can agree to take over just his or her child’s class.
We’re “starting to see some response” to that recruitment effort, Dougherty said.
Substitute teachers don’t need a state teaching license. People need only a high school diploma and some training for a one-year license. Those with bachelors degrees and training can get a three-year license from the state.
Dougherty said some online coursework is needed to earn those licenses, along with some district-specific training, but the primary requirement is a clean criminal background check.
“We really try to make community members feel at home in our schools,” Dougherty said, adding that principals will welcome guests to the schools and teachers provide lesson plans.
The district this year has adopted a “hybrid” learning model that combines on-ine and in-person classwork. But the district could go back to an all-remote model, and the lack of substitute teachers is one factor in those plans.
Still seeking drivers
The district has also long had a hard time filling bus driving positions. Those jobs require specific, state-issued commercial drivers licenses. Again, a backlog in the approval process is part of the problem.
Dougherty said both trainers and the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles are backed up. It’s taking about 60 days to get an open spot to pass the state test, Dougherty said.
Bus drivers require 80 hours of training before a prospect can even take the written and driving tests.
The good news, sort of, is that bus ridership is down slightly this year. That makes the social distancing requirements a little easier to meet, although Dougherty said those requirements are “complicated.”
The district has implemented a bonus system for new drivers. A fully-licensed driver can receive a $2,000 bonus after 30 days on the job. Even part-time drivers with the right endorsements can earn a $500 bonus.
There’s also an end of school year bonus — 2% of a driver’s hours worked, multiplied by the hourly wage.
There are currently just enough drivers to cover daily routes. But the system suffers if a driver gets sick, called for jury duty or otherwise has to miss work.
Besides the daily routes, there’s a real worry about a driver shortage for extracurricular activities.
There will probably be enough drivers for varsity football teams in this fall’s shortened season. But there probably aren’t enough drivers to haul junior varsity or freshman teams.
The district is looking into options including hiring charter buses.
“That’s probably a last resort,” Dougherty said. “It’s so expensive.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
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