School Committee discusses substitute teacher shortage; after school program financial hardships

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By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Northborough – The substitute teacher shortage in the Northborough-Southborough School Districts and the financial hardships facing the Northborough Extended Day Programs (NEDP) were discussed at the Northborough K-8 School Committee meeting on Dec. 2.

Hiring substitutes has been a challenge for many school districts during the pandemic.

Director of Human Resources Heather Richards said the District is still actively recruiting and interviewing for substitute teachers.

This year the District has building-based substitutes who are committed to working up to three days a week.

“I think it has worked out well,” said Richards. “It has provided a level of comfort. I like the building-based substitute model because it allows the substitutes to be in the school to get to know the children and get to know the processes so that they just don’t go in for the day.”

Currently, a lot of the Educational Support Professionals and aides are helping out and stepping into different roles when they are able to.

Another result of the pandemic has been the significant financial hardship NEDP is experiencing. NEDP is a private, nonprofit organization that provides before and after school care for children in Kindergarten through Grade 5. It offers opportunities for socialization, enrichment activities and homework assistance in a safe, nurturing environment. Its enrollment has declined by 66.4 percent this year.

NEDP pays rent to the District under a three year lease agreement for the use of the facilities. The leadership of NEDP requested rent forgiveness for the school year in the amount of $43,500.

“When we think about the long term-what we want to sustain and what we want to endure- we do not want to see Northborough Extended Day Program have to fold up its doors because of a pandemic,” said Superintendent Greg Martineau. “They are doing everything they can within their means to make sure that they are offering programs for our students, but the reality is that they can only have so many seats as a result of the hybrid model and the social distancing requirements.”

The funds received from NEDP go into a facilities rental revolving account and are used for the upkeep and maintenance of facilities, including special projects not covered under the regular school budget. The funds cannot offset expenses of any other programs.

Martineau said it is an important program for families and recommended that the School Committee forgive the total rental amount for Fiscal Year 2021 as he didn’t predict that it would impact any planned projects. There would still be $43,121 in the facilities revolving account.

School Committee members unanimously voted in favor to forgive the rental amount.