Many Missouri K through 12 schools have had a persistent shortage of full-time teachers, substitute teachers and bus drivers. Kelli Hopkins with the Missouri School Boards’ Association says the COVID-19 outbreak could cause an even greater shortage this upcoming school year, especially with substitute bus drivers.
“This is huge for our rural districts because, of course, buses are how the children get to school. And, if you have to double the number of buses, it’s going to be a problem,” Hopkins says.
To address social distancing guidelines, more buses and drivers could be required to transport kids – possibly leading to some class schedules being staggered more. The changes could be a financial headache for many districts, especially the ones already facing money problems.
“There really are some creative folks out there in schools, working on staggered arrival times, and alternate day attendance and alternate hour attendance,” says Hopkins. “Some come in here, go for these four hours, some they take them home and pick up another route, etc. All we’re talking about here is not just the logistics. The finances of it are incredible.”
The going pay rate for teachers and bus drivers could factor into the overall shortage, along Missouri’s historically low unemployment rate. Pay varies from district to district.
Many school, including Joplin, have been surveying their parents and staff about their preferences on returning to school, learning remotely, or something in between for the upcoming school year.