Staffing shortage leads to ACPS principal lending a hand all over the school

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A principal with Albemarle County Public Schools is getting creative this year, in terms of handling problems the coronavirus pandemic presents.

Normally, ACPS has around 200 substitute teachers. Right now, there is around 40.

Those with ACPS say sub staffing is a problem in a typical school year, but worries with COVID-19 sicknesses, has only escalated that.

At Agnor-Hurt Elementary School, you’re likely to find Principal Michael Irani teaching a class or lending a hand elsewhere.

“We haven’t had a day this year when we’ve been fully staffed,” Irani said Tuesday, January 11.

Irani says he starts checking absences every day at 5:30 a.m., a standard practice for all principals in the county.

“The pandemic changed things a little bit, because you’ve had to rethink everything. You’ve had to rethink how you schedule,” he said. “A lot of things get down to the logistical pieces that you have to reinvent.”

That reinventing means a lot of filling in.

“The trick with part of that is figuring out how to be equitable among staff members, because you don’t want to rely on the same person over and over again,” Irani said.

“In many cases, teachers are covering classrooms for other teachers,” ACPS Spokesperson Phil Giaramita said. “Administrators, including school principals are acting as substitute teachers to manage classrooms. So we’re pulling out all the stops.”

That sometimes includes helping other areas of the school, too.

“I’ve been the school nurse at least three times this year because our nurse has been absent and we can’t find coverage. I’ve served food in the cafeteria because we’ve been short handed,” Irani said.

Irani says most times, the principal is the last person to leave the school, which means he takes over a lot of the coverage.

“It’s a fun time,” he said. “It’s a time to take have a break, and to empathize with teachers a little bit more about what they’re working with on a day to day basis.”

ACPS says it is finding full-time solution to the shortage: “We’re about to announce an increase in pay for for substitute teachers, the daily rate that substitute teachers can earn,” Giaramita said. “That’ll help, I think, under normal circumstances with regard to the pandemic.”

“People are out of school and not able to come to work for other illnesses or family obligations that they still have that they’ve had for years. And so it’s a matter of dealing with absences that we’ve traditionally had. Now, the addition of COVID has made it even more,” Irani said.

Staff with ACPS say this is all a part of keeping kids safe and learning in school, which is their priority.

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