JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on staffing in the education community, according to Missouri School Board Association Senior Director of Employment and Labor Relations Susan Goldammer.
“We’re doing our darndest to not shut down whole schools and to keep education going as best we can, but that depends a lot on facilities, and to a huge extent on staffing,” Goldammer said. “We were in a teacher shortage to begin with, and now it’s looking like a risky field to go into for some folks, and for others, they are contemplating early retirement because they are part of that at-risk population or members of their home are.”
Goldammer addressed the House Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday to discuss school reopening plans and educators’ concerns. Discussion covered social distancing procedures, virtual training for educators, and decisions on resuming sports and other activities in the Fall.
“We need to waive liability for school districts if children get ill playing sports,” Goldammer said. “We have groups of parents who are very adamant that sports and the arts continue, and these things are very difficult to navigate because some schools don’t have the room, so how are we going to restructure those activities? Schools do want them to continue, but we also want to keep kids safe.”
She also discussed mask mandates and other changes to the school day, calling it “a shame it has become somewhat political.”
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Margie Vandeven also addressed a question on mask mandates before the committee, saying: “We’ve always prided ourselves as being a local control state, so I see our role as giving the best guidance that we possibly can and trusting the schools to make the decisions.”
Vandeven fielded questions on food insecurity among students, the use of CARES Act grants, and the technological divide in the face of remote learning. Vandeven also praised Missouri educators for their work in adapting to new challenges presented in the past few months.
“I would like to say that as a high note of all this, I have really never seen the education community come together in the way that they have come together at this time, to work collaboratively and by region to think about how we can best reach our kids and serve our children at this very challenging time,” she said.