LT staff shortage finds some relief

Deficit stems froms COVID-19, resignations, retirement

Aero Gartner, Reporter

With numerous changes that came to LT in the past two years due to COVID-19, one thing the administration had not prepared for was the staff shortage that came in response. There were not enough teachers to properly manage the roughly 4,000 students spanning across two campuses. This was due to the heavy impact the virus had on personnel. Not only this, but security and custodial duties suffered a severe blow as well.

“It’s kind of like what’s happened all across every sector of business where there’s been a lack of people applying for jobs,” Student Assistant Coordinator and Head Security Manager Gary Morrill said. “It started with COVID-19, obviously, where people [moved to working] from home. Currently, it’s just been a slow crawl to get back to where we were.”

Morrill has a total of 15 security personnel working as floor staff across both campuses, with seven employees at NC, six at SC, and one additional employee at each campus who arrives each day at 2 p.m. This staffing is fairly low considering the high volume of students at LT, and Morrill said plans call for hiring two additional employees for floor surveillance at each campus. Now with approval from the Board of Education, the buildings and grounds team expects to expand the custodial staff as well.

“We were short going into this year due to people leaving, and so we actually hired back up to [what used to be] our regular numbers,” Morrill said.

While the board has been working to get both security and custodial staffing back to its initial numbers, COVID-19 has also suppressed potential LT teachers from applying. Along with this, a trend to follow other career paths has also depleted the number of teachers to hire.

“This is not just an LT problem,” teacher Andrew Johannes said. “Nationwide, there are fewer and fewer teachers, which is a concern. Fewer people [are] going into education [and] majoring in education, so less teachers are coming in.”

Despite these hardships faced during the height of the pandemic, LT currently has an ideal amount of teachers in correspondence with the amount of students.

“Teachers look for [a ratio of students per teacher] about somewhere in the mid 20s,” Johannes said. “I think that’s an appropriate class size. [In contrast], we are capped at the number of students we can have, so that typically works out to be about 25 students per class.”

The administration has been able to achieve the ideal ratio of teacher to students per classroom with their current staffing, though some classes vary based on availability and demand from both students and teachers.

While agreeing that COVID-19 is a contributing factor to staff shortages, Human Resources Director Ed Piotrowski has cited other reasons beyond the pandemic.

“[Teacher, security, and custodial shortages] are all concerning, because all of those positions support students,” Piotrowski said. “They just support students in different ways. For a while, we had many classified, non contractual positions that were vacant due to retirement, resignations, and a whole list of different reasons. We are at a point where we are ready to close up the last one or two that we have, which is a huge step.”

Despite shortages of custodians, security personnel and teachers being a challenge in prior years, the number has begun and will continue to grow, Piotrowski said.

“In comparison to how things were two years ago [and] last year when we were beginning the pandemic and moving through the different stages of school closures and reopenings, we’re in a much better spot and I’m very happy about that,” Piotrowski said. “I think that’s something that school districts and employers nationwide – worldwide – should be celebrating, right? We’re starting to move back to those levels, but we’re not there yet, and we’ve still got a while to go.”