By Guy Page
An East Montpelier school serving more than 700 children grades 7-12 closed before noon today due to a “perfect storm” of staff shortages. And school officials say they’re not certain the school will be open tomorrow, either.
Also, Spaulding High School in neighboring Barre reported it, too, will be closed due to staffing shortages. “We are very sorry for the late notice, but over the course of the morning, it has become clear that we have too many faculty and staff out to safely open school,” the Spaulding Facebook page said. “We will have more details about after-school activities, making the day up later this morning, etc. Our apologies for the very late notice. Again, we will have more details later today.”
U-32, the East Montpelier-based high school – middle school serving grades 7-12 for East Montpelier, Calais, and Berlin, Worcester and Middlesex, announced shortly after 8 AM today it would close at 11:25 AM today.
The notice did not indicate the nature of the staff shortage. However, Superintendent Meagan Roy provided some details in a followup email at 10:50 AM this morning to Vermont Daily Chronicle.
“Yes, U-32 is closing after lunch today due to unforeseen staffing shortages,” Roy said. “I would describe the situation this way: Like many schools in our region and across Vermont, we are experiencing a critical staff shortage. The district continues to have unfilled vacancies across employment categories. This shortage makes it difficult to weather the “typical” absences we see, especially as we enter the Fall cold, flu and of course COVID season. The situation today became critical enough that we needed to restructure U-32’s day to prioritize morning classes and then we will dismiss. I would describe it as a perfect storm of sorts. We certainly hope this is a one-time event, but unfortunately our staffing shortage has been ongoing since the start of the school year. A lack of substitutes on top of existing vacancies makes it challenging.
“Certainly our hope is that we will be able to manage the situation and hold school as usual tomorrow. Our team will be working this afternoon to understand the situation from today and look ahead as best we can.”
Food service staff are among the shortages, according to comments made at a recent school board meeting, and a September 30 advertisement for a food service worker.
At the Sept. 21 U-32 school board meeting, newly-appointed student representative Willow Mashkuri expressed concerns about lack of food service workers. “Willow shared about lack of staff in the lunchroom; this creates fewer choices, including lack of options for vegetarian items. There is an idea circulating that students help out with lunch; there is a hope that this will improve the compliance with recycling, trash, composting,” the minutes for the September 21 meeting say.
According to Schoolspring.com, the public school employment website, U-32 advertised for a full-time food service worker on September 30, to start immediately. The site also has open job listings for a special education teacher, two paraeducators, two custodians, an administrative assistant, a mechanic, and a behavior interventionist.
Statewide, 1307 Vermont school jobs are advertised on schoolspring.com.