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ADELLA HARDING Elko Daily Correspondent

ELKO – Elko County School District is scrambling to fill teacher positions before the new school year begins on Aug. 29, but there will be no Battle Born youth academy classes this fall — not for a lack of teachers but for a lack of students.

The school district reported that as of July 27 there were roughly 76 teacher positions open, but the number changes daily, and the district has filled 123 positions through hiring or transfers to replace a teacher who retired, resigned or transferred to a new position.

“We have a few offers of employment out to prospective candidates that have verbally committed, yet not officially signed up,” said Kayla Church, communications specialist for the district.

Cody Krenka, director of human resources for the school district, told the school board on July 27 that the district has held teacher job fairs and revised candidate requirements to help with teacher recruitment.

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Superintendent Clayton Anderson told the board that “we are in the same boat as most schools in Nevada and not just in Nevada but all over the place,” when it comes to finding enough teachers.

Battle Born is the reverse, however, with a lack of enrollment leading to a decision not to hold classes in the fall. Anderson said efforts will begin to work toward second semester classes.

“It’s a great program,” he told the board.

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program opened the Battle Born Youth Challenge Academy in February 2021 at the Elko County Readiness Center near Carlin as a quasi-military, tuition-free academy to help struggling 16- to 18-year-olds. Twenty-one cadets graduated last December.

The district reported via email July 27 that the teachers assigned to Battle Born will stay in Battle Born this upcoming semester for program enrichment and student recruitment.

Class sizes

With teaching positions district-wide still to be filled, the annual class size reduction plan that trustees approved on July 27 has zeros in spots where the class size is yet to be determined, Krenka told the school board.

“We’re not fully staffed but have the funds to fill the positions,” he said, explaining that if all the positions aren’t filled, then classes will be combined “and those ratios will change.”

The Nevada Department of Education allows school districts with populations under 100,000 to provide alternative class-size plans.

The regular state plan for class sizes is 16 pupils to one teacher for kindergarten through second grade, and 18 to one for third grade through sixth grade. The alternative plan for smaller districts still calls for a 16-1 ratio for kindergarten but allows a ratio of 22 to one for first through third grades and a ratio of 25 to one for grades four through six.

“In a perfect world, we would get a 16-1 ratio,” Krenka said.

ECSD likely will need a variance for the kindergarten ratio. Projected ratios in the document to be sent to the state show 19 to one for kindergarten, 19.98 to one for first grade, 19 to one for second and third grades, 22 to one for fourth, 21 to one for fifth and 23 to one for sixth grade.

The form to the state estimates the need for 10 variances for kindergarten, and put zeros for the remainder of the elementary grades, until teacher totals and class sizes are determined.

The Nevada Department of Education requires the class-size report, but Anderson said that “at this point it is very much a formality of what we are doing with what we’ve got.”

Recruiting teachers

In the class-size report, the district writes that efforts to recruit teachers included sending representatives to four regional career fairs in the spring and revising district policy regarding any ARL (alternative route to licensure) candidates to be considered.

Krenka told trustees that the district had been working with Great Basin College only but was opening the ARL program to other colleges and universities. With ARL, teachers can take classes after they begin their job for up to three years to complete all course and testing requirements for full licensure.

The ECSD website under human resources lists all the teaching jobs available, including those in Owyhee and West Wendover that pay sign-up bonuses, and the list covers job openings for para-educators, who work with licensed instructors in classrooms to assist students and teachers .

The district also has openings for nurses, bus drivers, custodians, a psychologist, a journeyman electrician, building superintendents and secretaries.

Tying in with the need for teachers, the school board approved declaring a critical need for long-term substitute teachers for the next two years so retired teachers can put in more hours than normally allowed by the Public Employees Retirement System.

The district’s letter to PERS states that the “nationwide substitute shortage continues to impact Nevada, including Elko County School District. The district is very fortunate to have so many retirees who are passionate about supporting the students and teachers through these trying times.”

The declaration also includes substitute para-educators, substitutes for maintenance and custodian work, substitute bus drivers, substitute bus aides, substitute food service workers, substitute nurses and substitute health aides and secretaries.

The declaration follows an earlier one that expires on July 31.

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