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North Branch Schools

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January 24, 2021

12/28/2020 11:29:00 AM
North Branch 'support stars' needed ASAP

The COVID-19 virus situation is impacting everything on the planet— not the least of which is a shortage of employees for public schools.  Support staff and substitute instructors are in high demand as regular employees either take leaves, call in sick, or are placing themselves in isolation to quarantine after suspected exposure to the virus.

North Branch School District is being pro-active on staffing-up now, to be poised for students’ return to school when the Governor reopens elementary grades January 18.  It’s expected younger pupils at the very least, will be back in North Branch classrooms dependent on covid prevalence conditions.  

Business Services Director for ISD 138, Todd Tetzlaff said that before this virus came along staff with symptoms of mild illness or who “were a little bit sick’ would still come into work. This is not the case now with COVID-19 concerns.  

Then— there’s the demand throughout the entire region stressing available numbers of on-call staff.  Substitutes are often retired teachers or “veterans taking a pause,” cutting back on hours and these are the same older persons being warned to stay at home.  Tetzlaff commented that upon return to school learning, the district is well prepared with cleaning protocols, sanitization, best practices for distancing and the buildings will be safe.

Beefing-up its pool of on-call help the district put together “Viking Support Stars.”

During a virtual on-line preliminary orientation session last week Tetzlaff and Superintendent Sara Paul explained the program and what’s available.  If you have a Bachelor degree and time to devote either one day a week or two weeks in a row— North Branch wants to help you get your short term substitute status granted by applying to the state.  The district sub pay is $130 per day.  The usual day is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Tetzlaff said if participants have their own family to tend to in the morning, the hours can be a bit flexible.  They’ll work with you.

If you don’t have a post secondary degree but you did graduate from high school and are at least 18— you could apply for the support staff vacancies.  Support staff can be lunchroom monitors to accompanying students through their day or assist as non-classroom instruction.

Tetzlaff said the kindergarten through grade 5 range is where the greatest needs are.  As a short term sub, you will apply for the state license, which includes fingerprinting and a background check.  The sooner community members get involved and get their application started the better the chance the short term sub process can be finalized by mid-January or so.  Obviously an extraordinary number of Short Term Sub applications are filtering into state offices right now.  Short term sub licenses are good for three years.

North Branch has scheduled an orientation for applicants at Sunrise Elementary School January 13.  Supt. Paul said there’s some basic training the instructors will benefit from, like how to turn on the “Smart Boards” used in lieu of blackboards in classrooms, and related school equipment.

Tetzlaff stresses that as a substitute you set your own work schedule.  You can be at a school one day a month, or one day per week or everyday.  Any single person filling hours, “...really helps us,” he stated.

Supt. Paul commended the potential applicants who participated in last week’s on-line information session, saying the community has been so willing to get involved.  The district has 12 names for Support Stars currently but more are encouraged.  The number of future vacant positions is virtually unknown.  As a “short term” substitute the state only allows two weeks’ assignment in any one classroom at a time.

These are in-school slots, Tetzlaff added, the substitute instruction won’t be happening on-line.

One of the virtual session applicants, “Janet” said she looks forward to the day when schools re-open.  She feels being in school is a safer, beneficial option for elementary age kids. She also works in a profession where she is well aware of mental health impacts when children don’t interface with their friends or get social stimulation.

“If there are things I can do to help I’d like to,” another participant, “Brenda” told Paul and Tetzlaff. “Kids are better off at school,” she observed.

** The district website has information about “Viking Support Stars’ and employment opportunities, at www.isd138.org. Tetzlaff can be reached at 651-674-1009.


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