Eastpointe Middle School students return to school after teacher shortage

A week after Eastpointe Middle School was forced to send students home for virtual learning, the doors are open again after the district raced to hire staff. But now parents are concerned about the effect it will have on students.

Last Monday, students weren't stuffing bags and books into lockers, filling up the biology classroom, or preparing for any other in-person experiences after the school was closed due to a "building issue" from the week before.

The building issue was out of 25 staff positions, 6 were open. But the district moved quickly, according to Eastpoint Communications and Marketing Coordinator Caitlyn Kienitz.

"Fortunately last week we already had some people who were in the hiring pipeline so we were able to hire three new teachers over the course of this past week and get them into the classroom this week," Kienitz said.

Eastpointe Middle School has nearly 400 sixth and seventh graders and they were all learning online lasts week. 

Dr. Ryan McLeod said last week the lack of staffing at this middle school is a trend that’s being felt in industries all across the workforce, and the reasons for the teacher departures vary.

"There is all kinds of different reasons," he said. "We’ve had people leave for other employment in other schools, where they have the opportunity to receive additional pay in another district,  we've also had people leave the profession of teaching altogether."

School officials say although three teachers were hired allowing them to reopen on Monday, three openings still exist at the middle school and that's causing problems in the education process in other ways.

"School is overcrowded so there's not enough teachers or security for the schools," said Sandra McCray, whose 7th grader attends Eastpointe middle school.

Derrion McCray said there's confusion in the school because there aren't enough staff in place.

"Kind of weird and stuff. All kids are in just one classroom and they’re confused as to where they’re going," he said.

"Social distance. The school is overcrowded so how can you social distance," Sandra wondered.

School officials maintain they are following all COVID guidelines and masking is required of all students and staff regardless of vaccination status. The district says it's still searching to remedy the problem of the lack of teachers.

"We’re still looking for teachers both at the middle school and at every grade level really. This is a problem that every school is seeing all over the state and all over the country," Kienitz said.

The district says it's recruiting at colleges and universities and it’s also reached out to retirees through the teacher union. They also got help from last week's media attention on the shortage.

"We received quite a few more applications for a variety of positions - not just teaching - cafeteria help, paraprofessionals who work in the classroom," Kienitz said.

As this school reopens its doors to students it makes it clear they can’t guarantee a transition to online learning won’t happen again

"I think with Covid this year, all school districts - not just Eastpointe but throughout the country - kind of have to be prepared to pivot one way or the other," Kienitz said.