Walnut Grove Can’t Find a Science Teacher, Moves to Online Learning
Unable to hire a middle school science teacher for the fall, the Walnut Grove district had to get creative.
The 270-student district in Northwest Greene County recently sent a letter to parents announcing that 60 middle school students will be taking online science courses offered through the Springfield Public Schools Launch Program.
Online courses are taught by qualified science teachers during regular class hours. Additionally, the district has hired in-class student teachers to support students learning online.
In an August 11 letter, Superintendent Adam Willard told parents:
“We are facing a teacher shortage nationally, and we are feeling it here in Walnut Grove,” he wrote.
Willard said in an interview Tuesday that the school district has long felt “protected and protected” by staffing veteran faculty with low turnover. I said it was an alarm bell that I couldn’t find it.
“This kind of situation hasn’t happened here yet, but it happened here and we need to be prepared,” he said.
“We know this could happen to us again as we move forward that there is a shortage of candidates even going into the field of education.”
more:Springfield Public Schools retired 257 teachers last year. Most were resigned.
Here’s how the situation unfolded: In the spring, the middle school science teacher, a part-time position with full-time benefits, resigned.
The school district advertised the position but did not accept qualified applicants.
Concerned, the school district contacted Ozark school leaders to find qualified and experienced candidates. The person resigned in late July after taking a job that paid him up to $25,000 a year to teach three courses.
Willard hoped to hire a retired middle school teacher who could work part-time under state regulations and fill the job.
“In a typical recruiting environment, we have no problem finding someone to fill the position,” he said.
He said the school district had spoken to qualified candidates to teach in areas other than science, but had not hired them.
“We don’t want to put people in there who don’t have a strong content background,” said Willard. I know it will be.”
Created in the Springfield area about 12 years ago, Launch’s popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic. We currently partner with and serve more than 370 districts in Missouri.
Walnut Grove used Launch as a virtual learning option at the start of the pandemic. Last year, most students were learning face-to-face, so Launch remained an option for students looking to earn credit.
more:Springfield Public Schools spends $2 million to give online Launch program a permanent home
This fall, the school district will pay a flat fee to each middle school student who enrolls in a science course.
“For the situation we are in with such a short time frame, this is a great solution,” he said.
The student teacher hired to help with the online course is Mason Sanders, a high school baseball coach studying to become a physical education teacher.
In the letter, Willard told parents: .”
Willard has reached out to parents with questions or concerns, but has yet to hear back. “We didn’t want them caught off guard.”
He said the school district still hopes to hire a middle school part-time science teacher for the spring semester and will reach out to new graduates and retirees in the second half of 2022.
But given the ongoing teacher shortage, Willard said he’s reassured the school district has a startup option.
“I’m curious how this will work if it becomes the new normal for Walnut Grove,” he said.
Claudette Riley is a newsreader education reporter. Email news tips to [email protected].