Moffat County feels sting of teacher shortage, new policy may see retirees fill the gap
Local schools are weathering the state and national teacher shortage well, so far, and are hopeful that a new law will encourage retired teachers to fill the gap.
School in Moffat County started without a full compliment of teachers for the first time ever said, Executive Director of Staff Services and Personnel Renae Dove.
The district has yet to fill the equivalent of three full time teaching staff and 38 openings are posted on the district employment website.
“It may not seem dire, but it is for us. We are usually full before the start of school,” she said.
Schools were ready for students this week despite the staffing shortfall.
“We’ve got plans in place to ensure the greatest amount of support possible for our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Dave Ulrich.
Recruitment efforts are ongoing with Dove regularly attending job fairs throughout Colorado and in other states.
“For many years we didn’t need to recruit. Now applicants are interviewing us,” Dove said.
It has been particularly difficult to recruit highly specialized staff such as early childhood educators and reading coaches.
“The challenge is finding director qualified staff,” said Early Education Preschool Director Stephanie Davis.
Her current director qualified staff have each completed 30 semester hours of specific coursework at an accredited college and over 3,600 hours of verified experience working directly with children in a child development program.
“When they come here they are hourly and it’s not a competitive rate,” Davis said. “Preschool teachers are school district employees and affected by district finances. They also receive the advantage of benefits like Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) retirement, health and dental insurances and annual leave.”
The high cost of health insurance and relatively low compensation compared to other fields are two reasons area schools, and schools across the county are struggling to find staff.
“As with the whole state, we are feeling the effect of fewer people choosing to become teachers,” Ulrich said.
In addition to increased recruiting, the district will begin evaluating the compensation plan and health insurance over the next few months. A new law may also help by encouraging retired teachers to return to the classroom.
In the past, retirement benefits provided by PERA were reduced if retirees worked for PERA employer more than a limited number of hours year.
The Rural School District Critical Shortage law allows school districts in Colorado to declare a critical shortage for certain positions and then they may hire retired teachers without penalizing with a reduction in their PERA benefits.
The regulation went into effect at the beginning of the school year and will end upon completion of the 2022-2023 school year.The new law could prove to be a windfall for retired teachers and school districts.
“We are hoping this will deepen the applicant pool,” Ulrich said.
Retirees interested in returning to the classroom should contact the school district by calling 970-824-3268 or PERA by calling 303-863-3737 for more information.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
A learn-by-doing methodology was on display Friday at the Loudy-Simpson Park pond as Moffat County High School science students learned quickly whether or not they had a future in engineering.