GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — For the first time in more than two years, we’re about to start a fairly “normal” school year.
“It is about as normal as will have seen in a number of years,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller.
Dr. Mueller is quick to point out there are no mask mandates this year, no social distancing or quarantine mandates, no school in your kitchen. That sound you hear? Parents across the state rejoicing. And look, we get that the word normal barely means anything anymore, but it is nice to hear.
That's not to say there won't be ANY challenges. Educators have left the profession in droves in an era where hiring is already hard.
“I'd say we're doing okay. We're fortunate that we still draw a really strong talent pool for all the openings that we have,” says Wayzata Superintendent Dr. Chace Anderson.
Wayzata, like most districts across the state, is looking for people in special education, math and science.
"We're probably a little more challenged in some of our support positions like paraprofessionals and classroom assistants. Some of the early education staffing is a little more challenging than our elementary, middle and high school positions, and of course we're always looking for food service workers and buildings and grounds staff,” Dr. Anderson says.
And the state's largest district, Anoka-Hennepin, is in the very same boat.
“If there are people in neighborhoods next to schools, or retirees or young people that want jobs part-time or full-time, this is the place to be,” said Anoka-Hennepin Interim Superintendent, Dr. Kate Maguire.
Both districts feel confident they will be able to fill open spots, but it's something even the Department of Education knows isn't a short-term issue.
“We are really working with our school districts and charter schools across the state, as well as with our colleagues in the office of Higher Ed and PELSB (Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board) to really think about how is it that we really recruit and retain people into this profession,” says Dr. Mueller.
Wayzata and Anoka-Hennepin tell us they will keep things that worked; like cleaning processes and being able to reach and engage kids who are out of the classroom for extended periods of time and will incorporate new things that they learned were very important along the way.
“We know differently now than we did two-and-a-half years ago the importance of attending to taking care of each other, and taking care of ourselves, so that we can engage fully in our caretaking profession around education,” says Dr. Maguire.
And if you had a kiddo that fell behind, many districts are using federal funds earmarked to help students catch back up. All small steps towards the word normal regaining its meaning.
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