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Jersey Shore school staff absences rose throughout pandemic year

JERSEY SHORE — Absences among staff in the Jersey Shore Area School District rose by over 800 during the 2020-21 pandemic school year as compared to the year before.

That’s according to a presentation by DanelleWagner, of ESS, a hired service that provides substitute staff for the district.

She attributed the increase to the need to quarantine against COVID-19.

Wagner made the presentation to the school board on Monday night.

Total absences among staff in 2019-20 reached 3,890.

But in 2020-21 – the year of the pandemic – 4,722 absences were recorded.

That includes absences among teachers, custodians, aides, nurses and clerical.

Among teachers alone, absences hit 2,277 in 2019-20, but rose to 3,083 in 2020-21.

Wagner said the increases likely are attributable to staff needing to be quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19.

She also talked about fill rates, which measure what percentage of positions that are open because of absences but are filled.

In 2019-20, 81 percent of the teacher vacancies were able to be filled by substitutes, while in 2021-22, the fill rate was 71 percent.

“We were down 10 percent for teacher fills,” Wagner said. “We did see some good increases in custodians and aides and nurses.”

The fill rate for custodians in 2020-21 was 47 percent, up 31 points from the year before, while the fill rate for aides was 81 percent last year compared to 58 percent in 2019-20. The fill rate for nurses was 97 percent during the past school year and 76 percent the year before that.

Wagner said 14 people are in the process of being hired for the upcoming school year even before school starts, when for all of last year only 29 people were hired.

“I put that down to show you that hopefully people are getting ready to go back to work,” she told the board.

Pay rates in the district have also gone up for the 2021-22 school year. The daily rate for teachers went up $10 to 110 per day and the building based substitute rates increased from $100 per day to $120 per day. Long term substitutes rates remained the same at $175 per day if projected at 90 days.

Paraprofessionals and clerical pay rates went from $8.50 to $9.25 per hour. The rates for nurses stayed the same at $100 per day and custodians remained at $10 per hour.

Wagner said that she felt the increase in paraprofessional and clerical pay rates will have an effect on the fill rates for the next school year.

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