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School Views: Working together

Philip Qualman
Eagle County Schools

Our community is doing a great job “working together to learn together.” Families are cooperating with the layers of protection we’ve put in place to keep students and staff learning in-person to the extent currently possible. So far, we’re off to a good start in a challenging year.

We’ve had one student test positive who attended school one day while potentially being contagious. We worked quickly with Eagle County Public Health to transition their grade level to remote learning for 10 days. During this time, no other students developed symptoms, and the cohort was able to return to school as planned.

That’s the idea — transition the ill and potentially exposed to remote learning and protect the larger population and keep in-person school in session for as many students as possible.

Unfortunately, we need to let you know of two other challenges we face that can result in remote instruction — limited guest teachers and bus drivers. Our goal in sharing this information is two-fold. First, we hope you can refer interested applicants to the district. Second, so you’re not caught off guard if a shortage in either of these two positions causes an inconvenience moving forward.

We are actively recruiting for both positions. The need for guest teachers is greatest at elementary schools where students require direct and constant adult supervision. We’re seeking to hire seven new permanent substitute positions for elementary schools. These staff members are assigned late breaking teacher absences due to illness or emergency.

Usually, teachers request a guest teacher in advance when they will be absent. Our guest teachers choose from a list of openings which to fill. The challenge arises when a teacher wakes up feeling unwell or symptomatic and submits for a substitute the same morning they need to stay home. In normal circumstances, it’s stressful, but we can cover or fill those requests.

However, during COVID-19, all staff members are assigned to a cohort in elementary schools to maintain social distancing through smaller class sizes. We. may not have a teacher for a class if multiple teachers became ill at the same time. Hiring extra permanent substitutes and recruiting more guest teachers is an urgent need to safeguard against this.

All positions in the district require fingerprinting and a criminal background check. Our HR department can assist with attaining training and substitute licensing with the state for substitutes and guest teachers. Please help us recruit for these positions or consider applying for them yourself, even if only for this school year.

Bus drivers are also hard to find. A CDL-BP2 license is required, but as long as a candidate has a clean driving record, the district will help with training and testing to get the appropriate license. Drivers generally work two shifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. A 30-hour per week position qualifies for full benefits and offers ample opportunities to add field trips and athletic trips once enough experience is earned.

Importantly, bus drivers are the first person a student sees in the morning, so we’re looking for cheerful ambassadors to help students start their day with a smile. We use SmartTag to confirm students are on the right bus and getting off at the right stop.

Currently, we have the exact number of bus drivers needed to run our routes. We need several more to cover field trips, athletic trips, and cover for absent drivers. It is possible that due to driver absences, transportation to and from school for one or more routes may be canceled with short notice.

We understand that this can be incredibly disruptive for families who rely on bus transportation, so we are looking at ways to incentivize attracting and retaining bus drivers. Please help refer candidates to apply.

Anyone interested in joining our dynamic team can visit eagleschools.net/careers and click on the “View Available Positions.” From there, select the position you’re interested in applying for and complete an online application. We’ll be sure to get back in touch promptly, and before you know it, you’ll be playing an active role in “working together to learn together.”

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at philip.qualman@eagleschools.net.


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