New school year brings new classes, construction


New school year brings new classes, construction

Superintendents look ahead to what this year will offer
La Plata County schools feel the teacher shortage

Rural schools, including those in La Plata County, are beginning to feel the impacts of Colorado’s teacher shortage.
The number of college students graduating with education degrees has been steadily falling over the years, and many small-town schools are trying to become competitive to attract new teachers.
Dan Snowberger, Durango School District 9-R’s superintendent, said his district is not struggling to the degree that others are because Durango is a welcoming place to live.
“While Durango is rural, we are more of a metropolis than our surrounding communities,” he said. “Our biggest challenge is para-professional shortages.”
Snowberger said that becoming competitive in salary and benefits is the key to retaining and attracting teachers.
“We’ve also broken the paradigm of salary in public education by paying our teachers a starting salary of $40,000,” he said.
Ignacio School District was able to fill all of its open positions this year, but it was challenging.
Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said the district hired a student teacher to fill a spot that otherwise would have gone unfilled.
“Our districts are all in the same boat. I didn’t even have one applicant for a special education position this year,” he said. “We will have a student teacher fill that position that we will hopefully hire permanently.”
Fuschetto said he notices that it is hard to not only fill teacher positions, but also teacher’s aides, bus drivers and school cooks.
Bayfield School District hired its last teacher about a week before classes started, said Superintendent Amy Lyons.
“This year for the first time, we saw more of the impact of the shortage than in previous years,” she said. “We were slow to see impact, but it is a big focus throughout next year.”

Back-to-school by the numbers

Durango School District 9-RTeachers: 333
Students: 4,800*
Total budget: $51 million
Capital projects: The district has 21 projects planned at its schools throughout the year, including a new elevator at Big Picture High School and asphalt replacement at Miller Middler School.
Project costs: $2 million
Bayfield School District
Teachers: 110
Students: 1,340*
Total budget: N/A
Capital projects: The district is constructing a new intermediate school, and remodeling the elementary school to become a kindergarten through second-grade school.
Project costs: $35.7 million
Ignacio School District 11-JT
Teachers: 68
Students: 800*
Total budget: $12.5 million
Capital projects: N/A
Project costs: N/A
*The number of students will continue to fluctuate until after the first week of classes. These numbers were gathered a week before the start of classes.

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