JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
As Jefferson City Middle School students are set to return to their classrooms next week, Missouri is continuing to battle staffing issues forcing many districts to go virtual.
The Jefferson City School District said Wednesday that after two weeks of the two middle schools learning online, it's time to get students back in seat. The District believes that the 2 weeks helped to stop the spread of COVID-19 and allowed for quarantine periods to pass.
A spokesperson for the district told ABC17 News they feel really good about their staffing for Monday and look forward to welcoming students back.
The district reported two new cases on Thursday, one student and one staff member, along with three close contacts. In total 180 cases have been reported within the district, with 273 close contacts.
This comes as several other districts across the state are making changes because of staffing issues in relation to COVID-19 quarantine periods and a lack of substitute teachers.
State leaders are working to address this issue, as Governor Mike Parson release dollars of CARES Act Funding for substitute teaching. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent out guidance saying those dollars will go to reimbursing subs for the cost associated with getting certified.
Assistant Commissioner of DESE Paul Katnik said the fees include an application fee, background checks and online training fees. He said these can sometimes add up to more than 200 dollars.
"For people who that dollar amount is a barrier this could be really really helpful," Katnik said. "I think it's incentive for school districts to get teachers in their classrooms and working with their students, so I think it could have that positive outcome too."
DESE recently relaxed certification for substitute teaching, establishing a 20-hour training program that can be taken to gain certification. Katnik said about 1,800 people have taken advantage of the program.
This is good news for the department, as substitute teaching certification has been down since March. Katnik numbers from 2019 compared to 2020 show huge drops, April being about 70 percent down.
He said things are going back up, and hopes October will actually be higher than 2019 because of the changes made.
Katnik said they are seeing staffing issues go up at some districts, while others are going down, saying flexibility is key during the pandemic.
"On any given day, things can look one way, and boy a week from today can look really different," Katnik said. "School districts have having to be far more nimble, far more flexible than they had to be in the past because this can change so quickly."