Boonville schools approves floating paraprofessional, substitute positions

Erik Cliburn

The Boonville School District is looking at ways it can continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its most recent adjustment comes in the form of two new positions aimed at filling potential staffing gaps due to coronavirus quarantines.

The Boonville Board of Education approved the two new positions at its Wednesday night meeting.

“We anticipate that this will be a continued concern for us as a district,” Superintendent Sarah Marriott said. “If we have staff members that have to quarantine due to [COVID-19] exposure or an illness, we want to make that as least disruptive for our students as possible.”

The idea to have paraprofessionals assisting teachers who are teaching virtually was initially a temporary fix to fill a gap from two Boonville High School teachers who were under quarantine, Marriott said.

“We had to do quite a bit of shifting to make that happen temporarily and it was a fix we were able to do for the moment,“ she said. ”But if we wanted to look at something more long-term, so if we do have this scenario again, there might be a way we can continue instruction by the teacher, rather than filling that position with a substitute.”

Candidates will be required to have 60 college credits, the same qualifications of a substitute teacher, but will have a more versatile role by filling in for both teachers and support staff.

“Support staff is an area where we’ve having significant difficulty finding substitutes,” Marriott said. “[This] could be, in a sense, a floating substitute, but in a paraprofessional role.”

Even if there are fewer quarantines among teachers than anticipated, the new floating paraprofessionals will be able to fill in existing gaps, board member Lisa Leathers said.

“I would rather have people there and ready,” Leathers said. “I’m sure we will find a way to use them and keep them busy, even with the substitute shortages that are always going.”

The district has already implemented several policies for virtual teaching.

For the elementary school in the district, there are teachers dedicated to online teaching all day, Marriott. Middle and high school virtual teaching is a bit more difficult, because teachers have to be area specific, so certain teachers in a given field are teaching virtually for an hour each day for students learning from home, she said.

Overall, 11 teachers volunteered to continue virtual instruction past their contract. The board approved a $2,300 stipend over a semester for volunteer virtual instructors who have the virtual time built into their everyday schedules. For those doing virtual instruction outside their regular hours, the district is requesting reimbursement from the county through coronavirus relief bill funds, Marriott said.