‘We’ll make it work’: Routt County schools have dozens of job openings as school starts
Normally, South Routt County School District Superintendent Rim Watson would be done hiring for the new school year in the middle of July. In early August, with school just a few weeks away, he still needed to make several key hires.
Positions had been open all summer without any applicants, Watson said. The district was starting to plan for if they were not able to fill the jobs.
“By Aug. 1, we were in a position to have to manufacture some answers,” Watson said. “Fortunately for us, some answers walked through the door and applied for some of our open positions.”
Making those hires was “huge,” Watson said, but he is still looking to fill several positions as school starts.
As students return to schools across Routt County this week, they may as well be walking past a help wanted sign as each district is currently advertising job openings. Across the county, there are dozens of jobs for athletic coaches, teachers, custodians and counselors that remain open as school starts.
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As of Sunday, the Steamboat Springs School District has 36 open positions currently posted on its website, with five being para roles, four in counseling, two in technology and seven for athletics, among other openings.
A recent survey from the Colorado Department of Education shows schools across the state needed to hire nearly 7,000 teachers for this school year. Of those, about 16% are either still open as school starts, were filled by a teacher coming out of retirement or another temporary solution.
Each of the county’s superintendents said they have the staff to start the school year, though this requires some district employees to cover other jobs. For example, in Hayden, an assistant principal will fill an open English language arts teacher role to start the year.
“We won’t be short; it’ll just add a lot of stress,” said Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner. “I’ll pick up some of the positions and the roles of what needs done. … We usually pull our admin team to help do some stuff. So we’ll make it work.”
Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said the district is short on counseling and mental health staff to start the year, but principals have made plans to ensure there is counseling available in each school. Hayden is down a social worker and counselor, as well.
“While those don’t necessarily affect the first day of school, they have a huge impact on the health and wellness of our students,” Sinner said. “Those are huge positions for us to help fill, as well.”
Both these positions have been open all summer, Sinner said. No one has applied for the social worker position, and the only applicant for the counselor job wasn’t a good fit. Schools are struggling to fill these counseling roles because the qualifications required make the potential applicant pool limited, Sinner said.
But it isn’t just teachers or people with long resumes that districts need to hire. Jobs in facilities and food service departments that don’t require any state certifications are also going unfilled.
Each district has the transportation staff to cover their bus routes, but each are short when it comes to food service staff. Sinner said in Hayden, administrators will help pick up the slack until more hires can be made.
“Our principals are going to be taking numbers so there’s more staff,” Sinner said. “Everybody’s just going to pitch in to do what we can.”
Steamboat is short food service staff, too, with two full-time positions unfilled. Mark Rydberg, the district’s finance director, said this will lead to the district streamlining its approach and require other school staff to supervise the cafeteria.
“The hot options might be a little different than have become customary, and some of that relates to staffing and time to prepare,” Rydberg said. “Cross your fingers that we can hire two more people.”
Pascal Ginesta, facilities manager for Steamboat, said he is down seven full-time custodians and two full-time maintenance staff to start the year. Ginesta said the district is working to have a professional cleaning company help supplement its limited custodial staff.
“We’re kind of moving some things around,” Meeks said. “I think we’re in as good of shape as we can be at this point, but obviously, we will keep moving and hiring into the school year if we have to.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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