Derringer reports on staffing, COVID at TCN

By Eddie Mowen Jr. -

LEWISBURG — Tri-County North Local School District Superintendent Bill Derringer provided an update on COVID-19 and staffing shortages in the schools during a Monday, Sept. 20 board of education meeting.

“I want to take a second and thank all of our teaching staff for helping each other out and covering classes for each other,” he said. “I want to thank my administrators and all of our support staff for helping in other areas as well.”

In the cafeteria, the district had everyone out for a few days, according to Derringer, except for the head cook. Teachers acted as servers and even as the cashier.

“[Police] Chief McGee was actually in there serving food as our school resource officer,” Derringer continued. “Our teachers have been wonderful covering classes during their planning periods. I know that’s a drain on them when they do that, you know, three, four or five times a week. I do also want to thank all our other employees for stepping up.

“We’ve had some extreme shortages with our custodians, our custodial staff. I know one of them worked and eight-hour shift this morning and came in tonight and is working another four hours this evening. So everyone’s doing everything they can.”

Derringer is trying to recruit substitute teachers, as there is a shortage in that area as well. “Currently, the requirement is you have to have a bachelor’s degree and you do have to apply over at the ESC and actually get the sub certificate from the state. Last year, they had reduced that down and eliminated that bachelor’s degree requirement. That helped tremendously to get other people in there.”

Derringer also said last school year the district was able to have para teachers that were contracted through the ESC who were hired. “And this year, I’ll tell you that we’ve had para positions posted since the beginning of the year, and we’re just not getting applicants to even fill those positions. So, there is a huge void right now.

“Something that I’m trying to drive is that we want to remain in school; I want to keep school open at all costs,” Derringer said. “It’s critical that we keep schools open and do the best we can in that regard.”

“One last group — or person and group — that I would like to thank is Dr. Jim Wellbaum. He’s our school psychologist and he has stepped up. He’s helping us out kind of directing and organizing our special ed programs, in conjunction with our three building administrators.”

Derringer also reported on the area of COVID and masking. He noted, the school puts out COVID updates daily.

‘We had a huge influx, I would say the second into the third week,” he noted. “That’s all but balanced out now. As of today, we have 11 confirmed active cases. And we have 53 cases of students that are recovered. In our staff, we have three cases that are active right now. And nine who are recovered. And what I mean by recovered, is they have come back. They’ve sat out their 10 days. They tested positive, they’ve been out there 10 days, and now they’re back with us and able to work again, or get back into the classroom, hopefully, with antibodies.”

He continued, “There’s a lot of politics going on right now. And this is a really sticky situation, to say the least. But as of right now, in our kids, I think we had one today, I believe one or two. And on Friday, I think we had one and we had maybe one or two on Thursday. So, our numbers, they’re balancing out a little bit.

“One case is too many I realize, but as long as we’re going to have them just be out for a short period of time and be okay and come back, hopefully with those antibodies, we’re going to continue to move forward doing what we’re doing right now,” he said.

“We are requiring masks on the buses still,” Derringer said. “Our attorney is still saying that we should do that. However, in the classrooms and so forth, that’s parental choice. And we want to continue to keep it that way as long as we possibly can. Hopefully, if these numbers continue to go the direction they’re going, maybe we can get through this thing and get by it.”

By Eddie Mowen Jr.