Slight uptick in class sizes, staffing shortages key issues for local school districts starting new semester

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After months of smaller-than-usual class sizes, e-learning and staffing shortages, local school districts are starting the Spring semester with a few more students back in class.

A month after Southwest Allen County Schools had middle and high school students go virtual to end the first semester, classes resumed on Jan. 5 with more students in the classroom compared to the Fall. According to SACS Director of District Communications Stacey Fleming, about 10% of K-12 students opted for e-learning for the Spring. That is a decrease of 10% compared to the Fall semester.

Fort Wayne Community Schools started their new semester on Jan. 4. Roughly one-third of K-12 students opted for an all-virtual Spring semester. That is on par with the number of virtual students last semester.

FWCS Public Information Officer Krista Stockman says the number of elementary students learning from home decreased from 32 to 27%. However, about 41% of high school students opted for remote this learning, an increase of four percent from the Fall semester.

Northwest Allen County Schools also had minimal changes between the number of students choosing between in-person and virtual learning this semester. In the Fall, roughly 85% of K-12 students chose on-site learning. Between the number of virtual students switching to in-person and vice versa, there are 50 more students returning onsite this semester.

While in-person enrollment slightly increased, school districts are still grappling with faculty availability. There were many instances late in the Fall semester when low faculty and COVID-19 concerns caused some schools, or even entire school districts, to go virtual for an extended period of time.

The number of available substitute teachers has been an ongoing issue for local school districts. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue.

SACS says they have about 50 to 75 available substitute teachers. In a normal year they have between 150 to 200. FWCS is “holding steady” with available substitutes, according to Stockman.

NACS Chief Communication Officer Lizette Downey admitted the district does not have an adequate number of substitute teachers and support staff.

“We still have a need for substitute teachers which was an issue well before COVID struck,” Downey said.

School districts are reminding parents and students that, like many things during this pandemic, schedules are fluid. Just because classes are being held in person does not mean it will stay that way for the entire semester.

“Parents should always have a backup plan in case we do have to have a school or group of schools go completely remote,” Stockman said.

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