Otisfield Community School. Submitted photo

PARIS — SAD 17 administrators say that in order for the Maine Department of Education’s guidelines to be successfully followed they are going to need a lot of incremental help.

Key new additions to staffing of all Maine schools during COVID-19 are lunch and recess monitors and SAD 17 needs to hire as many as 18 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,” said SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts. “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.”

Colpitts hopes that students’ 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 to add support staff is for people who have volunteered in the past transition to a different role. But 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 set at $13.00 an 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 bus drivers.

SAD 17 had about 130 substitute teachers on its teaching list last year, with only 25-35 being available on a daily or regular basis. Maine DOE mandates stipulate 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,” said Colpitts. “Many of our substitute teachers are retirees and may not be in a position to return right now,” Colpitts said. “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 to be quickly called in.

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

Substitutes filling in during  the 2020-21 school year should expect most stints to be for at least a two-week period. If a teacher calls out because of a flu-like illness substitutes will need to be able to fill in at short notice – with a request being communicated between 4 – 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 and compensation is $150 a day. For substitutes assigned for less than weeks at a time a high school diploma is required, and the set pay is $75 a day.

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

Applicants must either possess a commercial driver’s license or complete training and testing for it, provided by the district. The training to obtain a CDL 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 $14-15 an hour and must be available to work up to six hours a day.

All Maine public school applicants are required to undergo finger-printing and a criminal background check at a cost of $70. Please call the Superintendent’s office at 207-743-8972 for more information and to apply.


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