DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham Public Schools will gradually return to in-person learning starting in mid-March, but the district is facing a staffing shortage.
“Our original plan was a to stay in remote learning for the entire school year, and that meant as positions came vacant, there was less urgency about filling them,” said DPS Spokesman Chip Sudderth. “Senate Bill 37 moved at lightning speed and it’s requiring us to make sure all of the resources that we need will be in place.”
Sudderth said the district needs to fill vacancies for school nurses, custodians, and possibly bus drivers.
“We’ve got two full-time and 36 part-time custodial positions available right now and those are positions,” he said.
Sudderth said the district won’t know exactly how many positions need to be filled until it knows how many students plan on returning for in-person learning.
“Our families have until Feb. 24 to let us know if they want to stay in remote learning or come back to in-person learning,” he said of the survey DPS sent to parents to fill out. “At which point we would need to run our school buses. So, we will be basing those decisions in part on how families respond.”
If families don’t respond by that date, Sudderth said the district will call them.
Karlette Dandy-Brewster‘s son is a senior in Durham Public Schools. She plans on allowing him to return to in-person learning when high schools can go back in April. Dandy-Brewster said she wasn’t aware of the shortages, but said she’s confident those spots will be filled.
“I have confidence in DPS that they will make the right decision when it comes to the numbers and how those are looking for the kids to go back safely,” she said. “I don’t think they’re just gonna throw them back in there without the numbers and support for the kids to be there.”
DPS is also figuring out a plan for contact tracing. With the Durham County Health Department focused on vaccinations, Sudderth said the district plans to hire an outside company that will do it for them.
He explained: “So that if anyone presents symptoms or we get word of somebody testing positive for COVID-19, we can move quickly to isolate, to suggest that quarantine happen or possibly even close down a classroom of that becomes necessary.”