Two local school districts are planning on operating at full capacity for the new school year as they recover from pandemic-related struggles.
Here is what the districts are saying and what methods are being used to increase employment.
The General McLane and Wattsburg Area school districts made provisions over the summer to ensure that they will be fully operational this school year and meet the needs of students and parents.
Schools throughout Erie have faced bus driver and teacher shortages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The superintendent of Wattsburg Area School District recalls teacher colleges in Pennsylvania producing about 20,000 graduates 10 years ago.
He said that they are down to about 6,000 as of last year.
“We’re up to hiring 12 or 13 new teachers, which is affecting about 23 positions as we’ve reassigned staff to make the schedule work,” said Ken Berlin, Superintendent of Wattsburg Area School District.
Another shortage the district is recovering from is a lack of bus drivers.
“We’re now paying $19 an hour for our bus drivers, which is about the highest rate in the area. We gave out $1,000 signing bonus free training,” said Berlin.
Along with raising the pay, Superintendent Berlin said that local media played a huge role in recruiting bus drivers.
“We advertised heavily all summer long in the local media on the radio stations, and that made a big difference. It was all those things together to make it happen,” said Berlin.
The General McLane School District is also making up for shortages from the pandemic.
“I think the hiring process has been extended into the summer for a lot of districts in this area a little bit later than most of us are used to, but unfortunately so far we haven’t had a problem filling positions,” said Matt Lane, Superintendent of General McLane School District.
The superintendent said the district is making provisions to accommodate families and students with transportation before the school year begins.
“Before COVID we had about 33 bus drivers. Right now, today, we have about 19. So we’re starting the year a little bit short but we’re always still exploring some options for how to get kids to and from school before Aug. 30 comes around,” said Lane.
For news delivered right to you, subscribe to JET 24/FOX 66/YourErie.com’s breaking, daily news & severe weather email lists
Both superintendents said that the districts will be ready with teachers and transportation as the school year begins.