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Oconto Unified School District educators pitching in to cover staffing shortages

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:03 PM CST
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OCONTO, Wis. (WBAY) - Teachers and staff at the Oconto Unified School District are supporting one another during a staffing shortage.

A sign outside the Oconto Middle School that reads “Heroes Work Here” does well to sum up the employees at the district.

“Since the pandemic started, there were a lot of different changes between the model for education, from virtual to hybrid,” said Emily Miller, superintendent for the Oconto Unified School District.

With classes now in-person, a rise in COVID-19 and flu cases is making the staff shortage worse. Adding to the issue is a substitute shortage.

“But we know that the best thing for our students--for social, emotional, academically--is to be in person. No matter what, our goal is to remain in person the most we can for our students,” said Miller.

All employees are helping out by either covering for other classrooms, taking extra lunch and recess duties, or helping anywhere they may be needed.

Heidi Jacquart is a school nurse, special education paraprofessional and a chauffeur. She uses a school van to drive her Special Ed. students from their homes to school, and drops them off back at home every day.

“Everyone is putting in their time, extra time. They’re doing it with a smile, so that’s the big thing. Nobody is backing out. Nobody is complaining. We’re all doing it,” said Jacquart.

Oconto Elementary School Principal Ben Bourassa also helps fill in for teachers when he can and understands why other staff are willing to pitch in.

“It’s being done out of a genuine love for the students. The staff here genuinely cares about the kids,” said Bourassa.

Bourassa hopes the burden on staff can be lessened when COVID-19 and flu cases in employees and their families go down.

Miller said they’re taking in as many substitutes they can get to also alleviate the workload on staff. Anyone interested in training can reach out to the school district.

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