Number of returning Wilton school staff is still up in the air
WILTON — The Wilton school district may not know until just as school is about to open next month exactly how many staff members, including teachers, will return.
Human Resources Director Maria Coleman shared the latest survey information, on how many staff members may not return, with the Board of Directors at its meeting on July 23. She said, as it now stands, that 122 is the total staff that may not return — a big chunk of the district’s 600 or so employees — but on a positive note, she thinks that number may be over-reported.
She said she will know more when the results of a second survey, set to be sent out the week of Aug. 3, come in.
According to a chart Coleman showed on Thursday, 105 certified staff members said it is possible they may not return to work on-site when school reopens. Certified staff includes teachers, counselors, therapists and similar positions. Coleman said, however, she believes most of these respondents are teachers. They are spread pretty evenly across the four school buildings.
The number of classified staff that may not return — which includes secretarial staff and paraprofessionals — is much smaller at 10.
The survey, which closed on Friday, July 17, attracted 382 respondents. With just under 400 teachers employed here, Coleman thinks they made up the bulk of those responding.
Employees may decide at the last minute if they will or will not return, she said.
“There may be people really wrestling with this,” she said. “For many staff members it’s a very difficult choice.”
The most common reasons for not returning center around health and childcare, Coleman said, adding that 38 people cited childcare reasons, four cited risk factors related to their age or a family member, seven cited medical issues either for themselves or a family member, and one cited a virus-related safety concern. There were 65 people who did not give a reason.
On the flip side, Coleman said she has also heard from teachers who are ready to come back to the in-person classroom.
Coleman expected to begin sending information July 24 to employees about their options and legal rights as they relate to accommodations.
Some people, she said, may seek accommodations, such as wanting to teach remotely, through the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district, she said, would have to provide reasonable accommodations, but not any that would present undue hardship to the school system.
Some may also ask for a leave of absence, she said, which is not automatically guaranteed. And, some could take time without pay but with benefits. Some may choose to resign or retire.
“As people learn their rights and options, they may decide to come in,” she said, adding that with the safety precautions the district is taking in regards to mask wearing, social distancing and cleaning, those who are fearful may feel it is safe to return.
One factor that may lessen the effect of teachers not returning is that there are an additional 250 certifications held by teaching staff including 20 held by paraprofessionals and other non-certified staff. While the most common certification is for secondary-level administration, there are also certifications in remedial reading, math, secondary English, and elementary grade levels.
She said this may be helpful in filling last-minute vacancies. Also on the plus side, she said, are a number of teachers who are not employed full-time and could take extra classes. Finally, she expects to have at least one certified substitute teacher in each building every day in case of emergencies.
She will also be reaching out to retirees to see if there is interest in returning as subs or tutors. Coleman encouraged anyone interested in working as a substitute to email her at email@example.com.
“There are ways we can utilize the incredible talent we have in the district,” she said.