Omaha teachers’ union says OPS still has 200 teaching jobs open
Many educators left the district at the end of the previous school year
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - With the new school year fast approaching, many parents are wondering whether there will be enough teachers in their district.
The Omaha Education Association says at Omaha Public Schools, 200 teaching positions remain open after many left at the end of last year.
OPS teachers return to school return to school the week of Monday, Aug. 8, and students return a week after that. Yet hundreds of positions remain vacant, and teachers say inevitably, classrooms will look different.
“Going into the next school year is going to be a challenge for all of our teachers,” said Kathy Poehling with OEA.
She said that over the past year, OPS lost more than 700 workers, and many positions have been dropped. Though nearly 390 positions have been filled, more than 200 teaching positions remain open, not including support staff like aides, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers.
Poehling said she believes it’s not from lack of trying.
“We’re always hiring new people. Is it going to be enough to fill those 200 classrooms that are open right now? I doubt it. I think there’s a lot of movement that’s going to be done to cover those classes because we have to have people in those classrooms,” she said.
Poehling said that means many teachers will move classrooms, positions will be dropped, class sizes will be larger — and even some grades will be combined.
“First and second grade might have a combination classroom where you have first and second graders in the same classroom and they’re taught by the same teacher. There’s going to be situations where there are classrooms that need a teacher that don’t have one,” she said.”
Poehling admits that’s not ideal. The district said in June that it expected to have unfilled positions at the beginning of the new school year.
“I think that anytime you increase class size, that small group one on one time is lessened,” she said.
Poehling said a nationwide teaching shortage has been coming for a long time, and the pandemic exasperated it.
The district said in June that it expected to have unfilled positions at the beginning of the new school year.
She said she believes a more aggressive recruiting program and better pay would help. So would help from parents. She says to parents, “Support your teachers how you can whether it is putting materials together for the classroom or checking with them to see if there is anything they need.”
We asked OPS about this, too. The school board will give community updates on staffing, transportation, and other back-to-school information at the board meeting Monday night.
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