Many area school districts facing staff shortages as start of school year approaches

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — With the start of the school year quickly approaching, school districts are experiencing shortages in support staff areas like cleaning, clerical, teaching assistants, and bus drivers.

"We are down over 10% of our bus drivers, over 25% of our cleaning staff,” said Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in the Hilton Central School District, Ned Dale. “So entering the school year in — just over a week to go is concerning."

In Monroe County schools, most students go back next week, so the need to fill these open positions is growing more urgent.

Emily Putnam: "How urgent is the need right now?"

Ned Dale: "This urgent need… I can’t describe it. Again, as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, this is my number one priority."

Because of the bus driver shortage, office staff and mechanics in Hilton’s transportation department will pick up routes. The same is true in the Greece Central School District.

"We will cover our runs, we use staff, we use anybody who has a CDL, all office steps up,” said Assistant Director of Transportation Mary Beth Riola.

While districts work to fill driver positions, it could be a while before field trips return for students.

"Instead of changing route times, we’re actually trying to look at holding off on things like field trips, kind of holding off on additional routes, for example after school activity runs," Dale said.

In Greece, the transportation department is outsourcing to fill the gaps in drivers.

"The shortage has deeply affected us to the point that we have to use an outside contracting company to do many of our schools," Riola said.

In Hilton, the district is getting creative and making some changes to wages in an effort to incentivize people to apply for open positions.

"For bus drivers, for cleaners, and also nurses. These three areas we tried to raise those rates, different than what they had in the past," Dale said.

Going into the fall, a lot will depend on whether or not there are changes to the minimum wage.

"If [the] minimum wage goes up significantly, it could significantly impact our budget,” Dale said. “One of the ideas that we are starting to throw around is a referral bonus."

Scheduling could also be changing for cleaning staff to close some of the gaps, especially on weekends.

"We are looking at how our staffing is set up on weekends for events and making sure that if coaches are just holding a practice that coaches are responsible for that area as opposed to having another cleaning staff," Dale said.

The staffing shortages likely won’t impact students. Dale says Hilton has a full instructional staff, and the district will avoid putting additional responsibilities on teachers as it works to fill support staff vacancies. A lot of these open positions – like cleaning positions, for example – are open to entry-level candidates. Almost every school district in the Greater Rochester area has positions listed on its website. If you’re looking for a job, visit the career page on your school district’s website to see what kinds of opportunities are available in your area.