Broken Arrow Parents React To Resolution Allowing City Employees To Substitute Teach

Tuesday, January 18th 2022, 5:40 pm

BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -

The teacher shortage continues to impact Oklahoma schools, with many districts in distance learning this week, including Broken Arrow.

The BA district's decision came after more than 700 school employees were out sick last week.

Many parents understand the need to switch to distance learning.

However, some are frustrated with having to take off work to monitor their child.

Broken Arrow mom, Stacy Thoma, works from home thanks to her job.

She feels she's pulling double duty as she makes sure her kids are doing what they're supposed to with virtual learning.

"Trying to stay on track myself and then keeping them on track themselves. It isn't something we enjoy. We'd much rather be in the classroom," she said.

While Stacy works from home, other moms like Jacqueline Black had to take the week off.

"For parents who work, that need to make a living and they're home, it's hard on the parents," said Jacqueline.

For nearly 21 years, Jacqueline's worked as a hairdresser.

When she found out the district would be in distance learning this week, she had to cancel all her clients to stay home with her 7-year-old son.

"I understand that there's things going on out there that's much bigger than a school shutdown, but I do feel like it's important for a lot of kids to have that interaction and learn from their teacher rather than someone like me who's trying," Jacqueline said.

To alleviate the teaching shortage, the Broken Arrow City Council will consider a resolution on January 18.

If passed, it would let city employees volunteer at schools as support staff or substitutes if they're qualified.

The resolution also states city employees would continue getting paid while volunteering.

"We would come up with an operational plan so that would not impact what's going on with the city," said City Manager, Michael Spurgeon.

He said the idea first came about after the mayor spoke with the school board president, who then called him to get his thoughts.

Spurgeon said he came up with the idea to let city employees volunteer.

However, the Broken Arrow Superintendent said any volunteers would be required follow the district's protocols, which includes getting a background check.

Out of Broken Arrow's 850 city employees, Spurgeon said up to 15-percent have asked how they can help.

"I have a number of folks that have CDL licenses. I know bus drivers is a challenge for them right now," he said.

The solution to let city workers volunteer in classrooms is an idea Stacy Thoma can get onboard with.

"The city and the school district looking outside the box is an amazing idea," she said.

Other parents like Jacqueline are okay with the idea if everyone who comes into the school is vetted.

"As long as they're educated and know how to handle kids, I guess it would depend on their background," she said.

If the resolution passes, Sturgeon said it would be at least seven to ten days before city employees go into schools.

The city council's meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. on January 18.