Updated: June 23, 2021 06:33 PM
Created: June 23, 2021 04:57 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There is a major staffing shortage among teachers and specialists for local summer school programs and it is likely to impact students with special needs the most.
Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, which serves west-side school districts, has begun notifying school districts that it can’t find sufficient staff to provide summer services for students in the extended school year programs that it typically offers. After a year of pandemic learning, parents are worried this situation may make things even tougher.
Kerry Webster’s 6-year-old daughter, Mila, is on the autism spectrum and the pandemic has been rough.
“Yes, teletherapy was available to us but it just did not work for her,” she told News10NBC.
Thankfully, Mila was able to get back to school in the Gates-Chili School District four days per week, where she not only got in-person instruction but speech and occupational therapy.
Once the school year ended, “everyone on our team basically recommended that she continue with the extended summer program,” Webster said.
Mila was all signed up and ready to start on July 6 but then late last week, the family got an email from the school district that said in part, “I am writing to inform you that on June 16, 2021, we were notified by the Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES administration that they will not be able to provide summer services for nearly all our in-district students recommended for their Extended School Year Program (ESYP) due to a staff shortage. Since that time, we have been actively working to find solutions to support our students. This has included reaching out to other districts and organizations within the area to ascertain if they have space available to accommodate some or all of our students. On Wednesday evening, we also sent out an interest form to our staff to determine the level of interest and availability there would be to create our own in-district program for this summer. We share your frustration in this, but please know that we will do everything in our power to provide services for students. However, time is not on our side. In order to create an In-District Extended School Year Program, we must have the appropriate number of staff agree to participate and we must also obtain New York State approval.”
Webster understands the struggle, “for a special education class it's not just having one teacher, it could be one teacher to 12 kids and five of those kids could have aids,” she explained, But she believes these children could benefit most from the extra time in school.
In a statement, a spokesman for Monroe 2 BOCES said, “BOCES and local school districts are operating more summer programming than ever before. Coming off the pandemic, there is a smaller pool of applicants for a greater number of positions. We continue to actively recruit for open positions. Interviews and additional hires occur each day. We are committed to work with our school districts to serve as many students as possible. Individuals interested in applying for open positions should visit www.monroe2boces.org for more information.”
Fifty teachers and staff members previously committed to the summer programs but BOCES 2 says they recently backed out. A spokeswoman for BOCES ONE, which serves east-side school districts, says she believes they will have enough staff to cover the summer programs it offers. A number of local superintendents tell News10NBC they are trying to offer more summer programs than ever before to overset pandemic learning loss but are having trouble finding teachers who want to work this summer.
Districts say they hope to have definitive answers for families no later than July 2.
“I know that our district is doing everything in their power to pull something together,” Webster said.
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