WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand expressed his “growing concern” surrounding COVID-19 related staffing issues in Wilmington schools.
“Right now, we’re looking at approximately 30 staff who are in quarantine due to close contacts,” said Brand, who stressed there has been no school spread to date. “While our number for positive cases are, in my opinion, very low, we’re seeing a growing reality that the uptick of cases in the community has implications for staff, putting them in a place where they need to quarantine.”
“This is a growing concern for our ability to staff and keep staff in place,” continued Brand. “It’s not lost upon me that there is a growing degree of frustration in terms of being able to actually staff all classrooms on a regular basis. And that number of 30 doesn’t include staff taking a day off for a personal reason or those calling out for not feeling well.”
Brand also stressed that the district is unable to fill every staff out with a substitute, noting the current “fill rate” is only approximately 50% despite the best efforts of the Human Resources Department.
“I don’t mean to be overdramatic, but it’s a growing concern. It’s something becoming very difficult to contend with,” added Brand. “How long can we hang on? … I’m watching these fill rates carefully. I’m watching these numbers of quarantine caretfully. I don’t know where the two collide.”
In responses from questions from Committee members David Ragsdale and Jay Samaha, Brand said that if staffing levels became unsafe, the entire district wouldn’t necessarily change learning models, just the affected school or classrooms within a school. Decisions could be made on a building-by-building, grade-by-grade, or middle school house-by-house basis.
Brand also noted that 35-40 staff members have been on leave since the beginning of the school year for a variety of reasons.
“It’s a large number that we’ve been contending with, and it’s in addition to the quarantine piece,” he added.
Later in the meeting, Brand also provided a personnel report to the Committee, noting that the district currently has 10 openings. He’s also concerned about the district’s ability to fill future vacancies.
“Sometimes, I think it miraculous that we’ve been able to continue to fill positions. Frankly, I’m astonighsed that when we have a posting, people are still applying. That’s amazing to me,” exclaimed Brand, noting Wilmington is competing with every other district in the state. “At some point, I don’t know how that continues, but it’s continuing right now.”
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