In an effort to help support families under quarantine recommendations and students both on campus and off, Creston Community School District is looking toward the community for help.
The topics of childcare and the need of substitues was discussed Monday during the board's regularly scheduled meeting.
Superintendent Deron Stender said the CCES hybrid instructional plan, which will stay in effect until Thanksgiving, is not due to COVID numbers among students, but rather due to the schools being short-handed as some employees are currently quarantining in relation to the virus.
Stender said the change in scheduling, for parents and staff alike, has created a struggle for parents to know what to do with their children during work hours. The impact has reached even some middle and high school-aged students, who are kept home to help care for their younger siblings. Moving forward, Stender said the district is seeking a solution through community outreach.
"We're looking at options to be able to support all of our community members — not just staff members but also our public," Stender said.
Because of staff shortages, the district is unable to provide workers for childcare, but they are reaching out to local churches for support in creating a space for students as well as anyone who would be willing to volunteer.
"We would still be providing instruction, whether they are at home or at the church or in the school in the classroom with somebody supervising them," Stender said. "... (We're) trying to look at every option that is available."
Stender said the district is doing all they can to keep on-site learning possible.
"We hope people understand that we're trying to do the best we can and make it as simple as possible for our families and our students. And we wish everybody to stay safe and be well," he said.
Those substitute positions of which the district has current need include teachers, drivers, custodians, food service staff and paraprofessionals. Prior to the pandemic, Stender said finding substitute staff was a need, as well. However, the fear over COVID-19 has made hiring and retaining substitutes even more difficult.
"I have no disrespect for people not wanting to — I understand it. I just hope there are some people out there who think, 'I might enjoy that,'" he said.
Stender said they will provide every employee with appropriate personal protective equipment.
"If you don't have masks, we supply the masks. If you want to wear gloves, you wear gloves. You know, social distancing and doing everything we can to ... follow the CDC and public health guidelines," he said. "Classrooms — I get it. We're always around people, that's what schools do. And that's what's so unique about us verses a lot of other areas of industry."
According to the Associated Press in September, schools around the U.S. were "in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door." Stender confirmed that the certification for substitute teaching has been lowered by the Department of Education.
"This year, the DOE waived a lot of the requirements, so if there's a time to become a substitute teacher, this is the year to do it," he said.
Stender said that the only requirements during this time include possessing an associate of arts degree and completing a one-weekend class. However, the DOE's lessened requirements may not continue on into next year, he said.
"They don't like the loose procedures. I like them, because it's allowing people from other states or people to apply that have an interest and get people into our classrooms. Otherwise, without that, we would be hurting even more than we are now," he said.
At CCSD, a substitute teacher starting wage is $120 per day. But at the beginning of 2020, Stender said they implemented an incentive which instates, for every 10 days or 80 hours substitute teachers work at CCSD, they will additionally receive a full day's pay as a bonus for their services.
"It's whatever their rate of pay is for whatever their classification is for a day, they get that in addition. So it's basically, for every 10 days, you get an eleventh day paid without having to work," he said. "... We want people to commit to our district."
Substitute teachers and staff are not all Creston Schools are looking for. Stender said the district is also looking to hire a mechanic at the bus garage and additional bus drivers. And according to CCSD's website, the school is also in search of a special education paraprofessional, a food service cook and an administrative assistant.
The qualifications for becoming a bus driver include possessing a valid Iowa Class B driver's license and having a good driving record. Bus drivers will also be required to take a class which is offered through Southwestern Community College's Adult and Continuing Education program. Stender said if an individual is interested in the job, CCSD will work with them in scheduling their training and even pay for both the training and for the time spent in the classroom.
"That's something we didn't do before that we do now," he said.
Stender said bus driver certification takes approximately 20 hours. Completion of an online course is required before registering for the New Driver Face-to-Face course and must be submitted two days before the face-to-face training. The next course available is scheduled to take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Dec. 12 in the SWCC Performing Arts Center. For more on bus driver training, visit ace.swcciowa.edu/modules.
On CCSD's website, there is a link for Teachers on Call which further explains the process of becoming a substitute teacher or substitute paraprofessional. That information may also be found at teachersoncall.com. Stender said those interested in substitute teaching may also notify the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners for completion of the weekend class currently required for licensing.
For all of the district's employment opportunities, only online applications through the website are accepted. To inquire about current career opportunities visit crestonschools.org/job-openings or call 641-782-7028.