Schools see shortages of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other critical roles

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“School districts have been able to underpay employees for a long time, and they are finding they can’t do it anymore due to a severe drop in labor force participation now,” she said.

According to Groshen, the increase in unemployment benefits during the pandemic has given workers the opportunity to pass up jobs with appalling working conditions while seeking better employment opportunities.

“Because people have received relief payments, they don’t have to take the very first job that comes along,” she said. “They are getting selective and are hoping that something better will come.”

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Randy Mondragon has worked as a bus driver for 20 years and his pay is slightly above average, which is around $ 16.40 an hour, according to the district.

He works six days a week, typically exceeding 70 hours.

“There was only one day in the 22 years that I worked that they didn’t need me to drive a route,” Mondragon said. “We are the first and the last that the students see in the morning, so our work is very important and sometimes we don’t get that recognition.”

Many of these workers are older; they often do these jobs to supplement their social security checks. But with the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, many are choosing to take early retirement to reduce the risk of exposure.

Due to the shortage of substitute teachers, Angie Graham, a 51-year-old teacher in Fleming County, Ky., Is covering the shifts of other colleagues. She fears that if she gets sick, no one will be able to cover her.

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