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'It affects every single level of teacher' | Staffing shortages impacting many schools around the region

Montgomery County Public Schools confirmed to WUSA9 that the district was currently short around 240 teachers and 60 classroom support positions.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — As a librarian at Cloverly Elementary School for the past five years, Esha Dhora says no other year compares to this one.

Only weeks into the new school year, days are often long and drag by especially without an assistant, who now must help with other duties around the school.

Staffing shortages are being felt at many other schools during the first semester that many of them have welcomed back students to the classroom on a full-time basis. 

Due to the shortage at Cloverly, Dhora told WUSA 9 that many teachers are now being asked to do multiple jobs and take on other additional classrooms.

"I’m in the media center alone. Students are constantly coming in and out with technology needs," she described. "You have teachers staying late after school because the buses aren’t coming or bus drives are being asked to run a route and then come back and drop off an additional group of students. We’re all going home exhausted. We’re all going home with tons of work.” 

On Monday, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) confirmed to WUSA9 that the district was currently short around 240 teachers and 60 classroom support positions. The shortage even extends to the school buses, where the county hopes to hire about 100 drivers.

With so much help needed, Dhora said many teachers are already feeling burned out.

"I work through the weekend. I work in the evening because I can’t get anything done during the day because of the lack of staff and all the disruptions," she said.

The need for staffing hires extends beyond Montgomery County.

The Fairfax Education Association (FEA) confirmed on Monday that substitute teachers are particularly in high demand, with some days bringing less than a 60% fill rate for jobs.

During more normal times, the FEA said the number of qualified substitute teachers filling needed holes is around 80-90%. 

"All around us is a shortage of employees to make FCPS work the way it should," said FEA President Kimberly Adams. "That requires a rise in class size most often, which is not ideal for the situation we need for student learning.”

Concerns about the staffing shortages have been brought up by opponents of strict vaccine mandates being seen in some areas.

In Montgomery County, school employees have until October 29 to show proof they received a second dose of the COVID vaccine.

When asked by WUSA9 about what the penalty will be for not following the mandate, both MCPS and the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) did not comment on possible disciplinary action.

However, a Germantown teacher recently wrote a letter to WUSA9 about possible terminations that could come from the mandate.

"We are now faced with being fired by the end of October for not being in compliance with the vaccine mandate," wrote the teacher, who asked WUSA9 to keep her name secret to protect her position. "This is only going to create more deficits in staffing."

The teacher went on to describe how many schools are allegedly already dealing with low staffing numbers and how the restrictions in classrooms added to the challenges of teachings.

"The stress level on current staff holding the schools together and suffocating in the masks 100% of the day is leading to needing days off," she wrote. "Schools are currently understaffed and staff are feeling burnout like it was the end of May and it's only September. Something has to give."

MCEA responded to a WUSA9 email on Monday and said the staffing shortage began "long before the vaccine mandate."

Moving forward, both Esha Dhora and Kimberly Adams hoped more help would come to classrooms in the near future.

"Right now, we need more folks getting into the teaching profession and we absolutely need more folks stepping up in the community to be substitutes," explained Adams, who said the district hoped parents would step forward to assist. "It would be extraordinarily helpful to all staff in FCPS.”

"They have to understand that it is October and we are burned out already," Dhora added. "This is not sustainable."

RELATED: MCPS teacher pushes back against vaccine mandate

RELATED: Some school employees suspended in Prince George's over COVID testing requirements

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