School district declares critical shortage of certain key positions |

School district declares critical shortage of certain key positions

The declaration will allow the district to take advantage of new laws and hire PERA retirees for certain positions without reduction of their benefits

Eagle County School District declares a critical shortage of qualified teachers, guest teachers, school bus drivers, school food services cooks, nurses and paraprofessionals. The declaration will enable it to take advantage of recently-passed state laws.
Eagle County School District/Courtesy Photo

The Eagle County School District declared a critical shortage of certain positions on Wednesday. This move will allow the district to take advantage of new laws and hire PERA retirees without limitations on days of employment.  

The declaration takes advantage of three laws — one that passed in 2017 and two that passed last year.

The 2017 bill modified the laws around the public employees’ retirement association, also known as PERA, for rural school districts facing critical shortages in certain positions. At the time, PERA benefits would be reduced for a PERA retiree if they worked more than 110 days or 720 hours (or 140 days/916 hours if designated by a school district). However, with the 2017 law, rural school districts could hire PERA retirees full-time for certain positions without any reduction in their benefits.

One of the 2022 bills, HB 22-1101, expanded the 2017 act, which was set to expire in July 2023. Once signed into law, it made this program permanent, but also added school nurses and paraprofessionals to those who were eligible for post-PERA retirement full-time employment. It also allowed charter school participation in the program, so long as they are located within a local school district.

The other 2022 bill, HB 22-1057, temporarily waived the limits on how many days a PERA retired teacher could work as a substitute teacher. This only applies to qualified service retirees in school districts or charter schools where there are critical substitute shortages. This law will expire in July 2025.

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Because Eagle County School District meets the requirements of a rural school district as defined by the Colorado Department of Education it was able to take advantage of these new laws.

The resolution — which was unanimously approved on Wednesday, Jan. 11 by the district’s Board of Education on its consent agenda — declared a “critical shortage of qualified teachers, guest teachers, school bus drivers, school food services cooks, nurses, and paraprofessionals.”

This resolution also emphasizes that the district has made “extensive efforts to find qualified persons to fill these positions and has been unable to do so.”

According to Adele Wilson, the district’s chief human resources officer, the district currently has 94 unfilled positions. This is higher than its vacancies at the start of the year, which in September were reported to be around 75. In September, the district reported that its special education, transportation and early childhood departments were the most impacted by these vacancies and staffing shortages.

Declaring this critical shortage, according to information from PERA provided to the Vail Daily by Wilson, will allow the district as a PERA employer and rural district to hire PERA retirees. These retirees in this instance are considered “critical shortage retirees” and can work in the identified positions without limitation on PERA retirement limits.

These retirees can only be hired to the positions outlined in the resolution and also must have the specific experience, skills or qualifications that would benefit the school district.

In responding to whether or not the district felt this declaration would have a significant impact on the strain from these critical, vacant positions, Wilson said it “may have an impact.”

Last July, around the same time the district made its plea for housing to Eagle County homeowners, it also sent a letter to around 50 district retirees after the new bills were signed into law.

At the time, Superintendent Philip Qualman told the Vail Daily the letter would “appeal to retirees of the district and gauge their interest in returning to work with the schools in some capacity” to potentially help fill vacant positions.

“That’s a huge opportunity for them to make some extra money and an outstanding resource for us of people who understand our schools, our students and our systems to come back and work for us,” Qualman said at the time.

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