RRMR students get extra days off this week because of staff shortage
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock students got an extra two days of Thanksgiving vacation this week because of a staff shortage, but it’s time that will have to be made up later this school year.
RRMR announced last week that school would be closed on Monday and Tuesday this week in addition to the already scheduled Wednesday through Friday Thanksgiving vacation.
“We had five teachers who we knew were going to be gone, two that had serious illnesses that they’ve been dealing with, and three that had family illnesses they had to be there for,” said Todd Liechty, the RRMR superintendent.
He said the school district has been experiencing a shortage in substitute teachers all year and knew it wouldn’t have enough subs to cover the teachers’ absences.
“So we thought the best thing for the kids would be to not have school when everybody’s gone and try to have school days when they’re there,” Liechty said.
On other days when there’s been a shortage of needed substitute teachers, the high school principal and the elementary principal have been filling in in the classrooms and the other teachers have been using their class prep time to help fill in.
“The folks at Rockford, their motto is ‘Every kid, every day,’ and the teachers have really been buckled in and giving up their prep time to make that work for us, so a lot of appreciation to those folks,” Liechty said.
“But this was more than we’ve normally had, so instead of just abusing people — it’s not good for kids, it’s not good for the teachers — we thought the best thing to do would be to do some PD days and have school on days when we have all of our staff available,” Liechty said.
He explained that the district used Monday and Tuesday as professional development (PD) days for the teachers who were still available. Classes are not in session on scheduled PD days.
The district will need to decide later when to make up the two days, and a lot of that will depend on the weather and how many days of classes are canceled because of snow or cold.
“If by some miracle” there are no weather cancellations this year, then two regularly-scheduled professional development days can be made into regular class days, Liechty said. If there are weather cancellations then the school year will likely extend into another week beyond the scheduled last day.
Liechty said the RRMR school board decided in October to increase the substitute teacher pay from $105 to $140 a day to be competitive with other districts and hopefully attract more subs.
“Charles City’s going $125 and then if a sub works 30 days they give them an extra $500, which ends up being roughly $140 a day, so we thought to ourselves, let’s give them all the money up front, see if we can get them in here,” he said.
As word of RRMR’s closing this week has spread it has resulted in a few substitute teachers applying to work for the district.
“We didn’t expect that, but that’s been a bit of a benefit,” Liechty said.