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While staffing conditions improve, help still needed at local school

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. – When the school year first began, a number of districts were facing severe staffing shortages. That forced some to cancel classes. We spoke with one district that says things are improving.

At the start of the school year, Carl Junction joined a number of other districts and ultimately had to cancel class due to staffing issues. Dr. Phil Cook says “I think the last time we visited it was right in the middle of some uptick in our sickness, some related to COVID, some other illness, we’re pretty health now, as a student body and as a staff, so in that respect, things are much better.”

Superintendent Dr. Phil Cook says they still need substitutes, but, with COVID numbers at zero in the district, and overall health up, they’re fine in ‘certified’ positions. “As support staff goes, custodians, we have a couple of openings right now, just don’t have applicants that want to come in and help us, our kitchens are the same way, paras, we’ve seen some challenges with our support staff, but as far as certified staff, things look really good.”

Jill Wilkins is a Library Assistant at the Intermediate Center and is a paraprofessional. Paraprofessionals can oftentimes provide one-on-one support for students who need extra help. “And that really helps the classroom teacher, because the para can float and go around and help those and see where they are and know if they need help, and the teacher doesn’t have to stop, or sometimes the teacher doesn’t always know, and the para is there that can come alongside and help with that and keep the class flowing helping those who need help.”

But, like custodians and kitchen staff, paraprofessionals are also in short supply in the district, which can have a significant impact on the classroom and more importantly, on students. Wilkins says “Some of the children cannot get all their work done because they have to stop and they can’t keep up sometimes, or it creates extra work for the teacher because they get their papers turned in and they realize, okay, this child is not able to get this done, we need to go back, it just creates more work.”

Wilkins says she does have her substitute teaching certificate and does occasionally get pulled from her regular duties to sub in a class, stressing the need for subs and support staff.

Cook says they have several support positions open and are actively accepting applications for anyone who wants to come help the district.

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