The halls of Prior Lake High School won’t look this full anytime soon. Reduced building capacity means students and staff will be more spread out than in previous years, which has lead to staffing challenges.

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board approved various requests for additional staffing for the 2020-2021 school year at its Sept. 14 meeting.

The requests presented to the board included:

  • A position for a full-time, district-wide health services coordinator. The position will replace two recently vacated licensed school nurse positions. The position will follow a 260-day work calendar, allow the administrator to supervise health services staff and expand the focus of the position to be inclusive of health and safety programs and incident response. The position will be funded through the general fund.
  • Three full-time classroom teachers for the Distance Learning Academy at the elementary level. There is an increased need for teachers due to having both hybrid and DLA students, board documents state. Funding for these positions will come from COVID relief funds and cost $225,000.
  • Twelve classroom monitor positions at Twin Oaks Middle School, Hidden Oaks Middle School and Prior Lake High School. The classroom monitor positions will support students on-site with teachers attending remotely. The positions are temporary and at-will. The $125,000 cost for the positions is the potential maximum if hybrid learning continues through December 2020. Funding will come from COVID relief funds.
  • A campus supervisor and greeter for the new additional entrance at Prior Lake High School. Supervision and monitoring of the entrance is needed to maintain building safety, board documents state. Funding for this position will come from the vacant computer lab support position making it no additional cost to the district and it will be funded through the general fund.

All of the additional staffing requests were approved by the board 6-1 with Board Director Melissa Enger dissenting.

Staffing challenges come with the hybrid learning model, Executive Director of Human Resources Jim Quiram said. Because the model spreads out students among classrooms and at home, it also spreads staff.

“In most of our buildings the capacity in the classroom, including the adults, is 14 to 16 in an elementary building, so you can see how those two intertwine when it comes to staffing and building capacity,” Quiram said.

The district must also account for teachers who requested the accommodation of working at home or those who must stay home and teach if they have been exposed.

“Of course we’re accommodating for people who can work from home, but what that means is at the secondary level you need someone in the classroom while they’re teaching from home because the kids are there. That’s different from a distance learning model where the kids are learning at home,” he said.

Of the district’s 1,200 staff, 109 requested leave or accommodations due to COVID related reasons, Quiram said.

“For anybody who had a legitimate request for an accommodation or they qualified under some leave status, we were able to accommodate, to the positive, almost every one of them,” he said. “The vast majority, 95% easily, I feel very comfortable in saying we were able to accommodate.”

There are 31 open positions within the district. The positions have been posted on the school’s website and in the newsletter. Nine of the 12 classroom monitors have already been hired as well as three elementary DLA teachers, Quiram said.

When asked by a board member if the district was fully staffed, Quiram said, “I would consider us functionally staffed. I don’t know what fully staffed looks like right now.”

PLSAS Superintendent Teri Staloch said that having substitute teachers during a regular school year is a challenge, so hiring a pool of staff who can be available when needed will be beneficial.