Jacksonville School District 117 parents got to meet teachers face to face yesterday. The district held its first opening day ceremony in three years.
JSD117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says they learned several things from the Covid-19 pandemic, including a few things that will be staying around: “We’ll be keeping a few things, such as the minimizing the amount of free, unsupervised time for students in the hallways and some other things. As for actual Covid adjustments – no. We are entering the school year as a normal year.”
Ptacek says one of the unfortunate things that is sticking around the district that was even present before Covid-19 is the ongoing personnel shortage: “We have somewhere near 20 long-term subs in the district filling spots we could not find teachers for. It’s better here now than it was as we have increased salaries. We are hoping that at the next board meeting that their will be a new contract that is going in front of the board that hopefully will greatly help that for next year.”
Ptacek says in the more recent past with a normal school year, the district would have only 3 to 4 long-term substitutes working in especially hard-to-find subject areas. He says not only is it a local problem but a statewide and national problem.
The district is also struggling to find bus drivers. He says the bus driver shortage is a main topic of conversation in all of the most recent superintendent meetings he’s participated in at the regional and state level.
Ptacek says the only other major change parents will see this year is more stringent building security. Parents will now have to call ahead and set up appointments to enter school buildings during school hours to visit with personnel. He says security concerns has made the district want to clamp down on the policy to keep children safe during the school day, especially in the wake of all the recent national headlines filled with school shootings.
The ’21-’22 school year begins tomorrow.