Stressed FWCS to consider e-learning
06 Oct 2021 — Journal Gazette
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Ashley Sloboda

Staffing shortages are stressing Fort Wayne Community Schools to the point that district leaders are brainstorming remote-learning scenarios, Superintendent Mark Daniel said Tuesday.

The almost 30,000-student district is stretched thin across all departments, including food service and transportation, which is 72 bus drivers short, Daniel said. Further, he said, FWCS faces "major shortages" with substitute teachers.

He warned the audience watching his Facebook Live update that changes are likely looming.

"There will come a time when we cannot physically accommodate every student every day because we don't have personnel," Daniel said. "We've been stretching and stretching, and I think now we're to chewing gum on trying to fix things."

A rolling blackout could be a possible solution, Daniel said. That would involve having certain schools switch to remote learning on certain predetermined days to free up personnel, such as bus drivers and custodians, for other parts of the district.

He assured parents such a change wouldn't happen overnight.

"I know it is a hardship for families," Daniel said. "We won't do this without significant lead time for ... parents to arrange, if we do this, to arrange for child care."

Daniel repeatedly cited the nationwide worker shortage and how it's even affecting FWCS, which has about 4,000 employees.

"And you think, 'Well, holy cow, can't you cover this?' And the answer is, 'Not in today's marketplace,'" Daniel said, emphasizing the need to think creatively.

FWCS is offering bonuses to entice former teachers to return to classrooms. That incentive has attracted some people, Daniel said, but not in significant numbers.

He invited the audience to pitch their ideas live in the streaming session's comments section. Suggestions included having students fill certain positions, such as those in the cafeteria, and having National Guard members drive buses.

Daniel said he likes the idea about student workers and internships, and he can ask the Indiana secretary of education about requesting National Guard assistance.

FWCS also is open to the possibility of training and paying teachers willing to drive bus routes, Daniel said.

The district might ask the city for help.

"I've not had that conversation yet with the mayor, but I do have a meeting coming up soon," Daniel said. "I'd like to ask these questions. How can we collectively work with the city to assist us?"

Meanwhile, it remains critical for students and employees to stay home when sick to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and quarantines, Daniel said.

Generally, FWCS is seeing its numbers drop, he said, noting quarantines have fallen by 90% since last month.

The Allen County Department of Health reported 127 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 55,862. The death toll increased by nine to 779 total fatalities.

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"Stressed FWCS to consider e-learning" Journal Gazette 06 Oct 2021: A1