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FASD holds its own amidst state teacher shortage

While state officials are worried about Pennsylvania’s ongoing teacher shortage, school representatives in Fairfield Area School District say their district is in good shape.

During the Fairfield school board’s meeting on Monday evening, the board focused on preparations for the 2022-23 school year.

Superintendent Thomas Haupt told the board he hoped it would approve adding another kindergarten teacher during the next meeting. The district’s sixtieth kindergarten student signed up on Monday, and with three teachers, there are currently 20 students in each kindergarten classroom.

Haupt noted that Gov. Tom Wolf approved the state’s budget on July 8, and that the state passed “pretty historic funding for education in this budget.”

Sonja Brunner, assistant to the superintendent, told the board that Fairfield will host the county induction for teachers on Aug. 9.

Fairfield will hold its district induction program from Aug. 8-11. Brunner said teachers will have activities and a bus tour of the district included in the program.

According to Brunner, the district needs to hire up to two more paraprofessionals.

Four new teachers were approved during the meeting and introduced themselves to the board. Kathryn Miller, Lily Kapfhammer, Kaitlin Martin and Emily Solalinde-Cernas will all work as elementary teachers.

Legislative update

Board member Lisa Sturges reiterated that Fairfield is lucky to have enough staff while the state is facing what it has called an “educator workforce crisis.” She thanked the teachers who choose to work in Fairfield.

Sturges also noted that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has updated its guidelines to determine eligibility for free and reduced lunches for the upcoming school year. The guidelines are available here.

Sturges also cited information recently published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) designed to help schools, “fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline,” according to the release.

The guidance encouraged districts to use American Rescue Plan funds to ensure they have enough staff and training to assist students with disabilities and mental health struggles.

“The new resources reflect the concern, particularly in light of the prevalence of student mental health issues associated with the pandemic, that some students with disabilities are not receiving the supports and services necessary to address their educational needs, including their disability-based behavior,” the release states.

Sturges said the information is encouraging and that she has heard from some people in the community who are concerned about children’s mental health as they prepare to go back to school.

The board elected to make Lauren Clark the board secretary, retroactive to July 1. The term will go through June 30, 2025.

The board will hold its next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8. Meetings are held in the district board room and are posted on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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