Prince George's County educators say they’ve hit breaking point amid staffing shortage
UPPER MARLBORO, M.d. (FOX 5 DC) - Prince George’s County educators and school employees say they’re understaffed and overworked, and it’s reached a breaking point.
About 200 people came out for a rally organized by the school labor unions Thursday evening ahead of the school board meeting.
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"We’re overworked," said Kendra, a Highland Park Elementary Kindergarten teacher who opted not to give her last name. "Testing, still having to cover classes, students who are coming in sick. We’re the nurses, we’re the therapists, we are everything right now."
When asked what would help the most, she replied, "Support and understanding."
The district says currently there are 400 teacher vacancies. Dr. Donna Christy, President of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, said staff often have to cover extra classrooms when there aren’t enough substitutes.
"They are absolutely exhausted," Christy said. "They can’t handle the workload and they’re breaking. I’m hearing on a daily basis people ready to quit."
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The union has a list of demands including hiring more support staff and providing teachers with more planning hours. They also want to feel heard by the administration.
"Taking us seriously when we say that the workloads are too much," Christy said.
It’s not just teachers who are feeling overworked.
"There’s a lot of individuals in the school with the bus system-they’re doing double and triple runs," said Martin Diggs, President of ACE-AFSCME which represents support staff. "If the parents could just be patient with those individuals because those bus drivers really are the heroes of the day."
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A school district spokeswoman said in a statement:
"Amid the ongoing pandemic our school system is not unlike others across the nation in that we are feeling a pinch filling critical positions, from school bus drivers to cafeteria workers to teachers. While our number of active substitute teachers remain comparable to prior years, public safety and health concerns have fewer ready to engage. We are continually working with our team to attract new talent and ensure fully staffed schools."
Some at the rally later spoke in front of the school board.
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When FOX 5 attempted to go into the public meeting, we were told media is no longer allowed in due to COVID-19 protocol.
The district spokeswoman says that policy was made by the school board, however, several board members said they’d never heard of it.