Otisfield Community School. Submitted photo

PARIS — SAD 17 administrators say in order to successfully follow the Maine Department of Education’s guidelines they will need a lot of part-time help.

Key new staffing for all Maine schools during the COVID-19 pandemic are lunch and recess monitors, and SAD 17 needs to hire as many as 18 people to support educators in its elementary, middle and high schools.

“Traditionally up to 120 students have gathered at a time for recess and lunch periods,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts said. “We could do that with just a few adults supervising them. But in order to properly manage social distancing in smaller group sizes we need more staff. It involves workers being available two to three hours a day.

“With school volunteers not currently allowed, it is even more urgent to provide in-class support to teachers,” he said.

Colpitts said he hopes parents and other family members may be interested in filling monitor positions as a way to stay connected with their children in school during a tough time. Other options include having former volunteers transition to a different role. However, many volunteers are older and have concerns about the health risks, and others have jobs that keep them from being available on a daily basis.

The pay for lunch and recess monitors is $13 per hour. It is preferable that applicants be able to commit to the same two- or three-hour shifts five days a week.

The district faces similar difficulties with substitute teachers and substitute bus drivers.

SAD 17 had about 130 substitute teachers on its list last year, with only 25 to 35 available on a daily or regular basis.

Maine DOE mandates that any district employee reporting flu-like symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks before they can be cleared to return to work.

“Scheduling substitutes has always been a challenge for us,” Colpitts said. “Many of our substitute teachers are retirees and may not be in a position to return right now. If we have just three or four regular teachers unavailable it could mean that a school cannot be open to students.”

In the past, administrators had the option of another staff person standing in or co-mingling classes if they were unable to fill an absent teacher’s post for a day. Under the DOE guidelines that is no longer an option, making it necessary to have as many substitutes available as possible come in on short notice.

Substitutes filling in during the 2020-21 school year should expect most stints to be for at least two weeks. If a teacher calls out because of a flu-like illness, substitutes will need to be able to fill in quickly,  with a request being communicated between 4 and 6 a.m. the day they are needed.

The minimum education requirement for substitutes working 10 or more days per assignment is a high school diploma and two years of college study. Compensation is $150 a day. For substitutes assigned for less than weeks at a time, a high school diploma is required and pay is $75 a day.

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. Sun Journal file photo

Colpitts said the district also needs to add 10 to 15 substitute bus drivers.

Applicants must either possess a commercial driver’s license or complete training and testing for it, provided by the district. The CDL training can take four to six weeks and SAD 17 covers the instructional fees. Drivers with an active CDL are not required to take the training; applicants with an expired license can waive the training by completing the driver’s test. All public school bus drivers have to pass a standard drug screening test as well.

Substitute bus drivers are paid between $14 and $15 an hour and must be available to work up to six hours a day.

All Maine public school applicants are required to undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check at a cost of $70.

The Oxford Hills School District covers eight towns — Harrison, Hebron, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Waterford and West Paris. There are elementary schools in each town and the high school and middle school are in Paris.

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