PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. — The Calvert County Board of Education faces a massive issue as the Calvert County Education Association (CEA) voiced their concerns on school staffing shortages at the board meeting on Oct. 28.
“We have a real problem facing us in 2021 that will continue to plague us if we do not recognize and address the shortage of the most valuable resource in education,” CEA President Dona Ostenso said at the meeting. “Our human resources, teachers, related service providers, and instructional assistants. Nurses, bus drivers, substitutes, to name just a few.”
Although the CEA understands this problem did not just start, they must address it immediately. But this is a national phenomenon that has drastically affected various states.
“This problem did not occur overnight. It is not a result of the pandemic nor is it only a problem in Maryland. This is a crisis across the United States. The U.S. Department of education tracks teacher shortage areas,” Ostenso said. “It is reporting that North Carolina has a shortage of qualified teachers in all grades of math and special-ed sign and all core subjects in all elementary school grades. The teacher shortage is very real. Colleges are graduating with very few new teachers. It was 110,000 in 2018 and could reach 200,000 by 2025.”
Ostenso added that as the number of teachers declines, the sizes of classes will increase, which will reduce the quality of learning each student will receive.
“There are more books to mark. More children to honor. More children’s behavior needs managing. It creates a vicious cycle, and it is snowballing. The shortage is only set to increase unless something changes,” Ostenso said. “Calvert teachers are team players, but after constant challenges, the reactive climate is taking a toll on staff. Teachers are being stretched to the limit.”
On top of regular classroom stressors, it has not been a normal year. Teachers have had to deal with the additional social and emotional stress of students who have been home for a year and a half because of COVID-19. Additionally, some students have to quarantine because they caught the infection.
“On top of dealing with staffing shortages and COVID-19 quarantines, teachers are working to combat both student learning while attending to the social and emotional needs students came to school with. We keep hearing — self-care and wellness, yet we’re being completely run into the ground,” Ostenso said. “If we have no energy to give our students, how can we be what everyone needs whose lives depend on us.”
Ostenso continued to mention that 70% of these educators do not feel supported with their self-care and mental health. With so many staff not feeling supported, some changes and programs may be on the horizon sooner rather than later.
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