Spokane Public Schools hiring teachers, other staff as it works to reduce class sizes

SPOKANE, Wash. — Students with Spokane Public Schools will be back in class, full-time in less than a month. The district has been hiring over the summer and is still looking for more teachers, para-educators and other staff as it works to reduce class sizes.

It’s known that students learn better when they get more attention from teachers. The district says it’s working towards getting historically low class sizes. Some classrooms this upcoming year will have fewer students compared to years past.

Right now, the district says it has room in its middle and high schools, but it’s elementary classrooms pose more of a challenge.

District spokesperson Sandra Jarrard says they’ll have more capacity in elementary schools when sixth graders move to the middle schools next year.

As they move towards smaller class sizes this year, the district needs more teachers and other staff to help support kids. While some of its elementary classrooms are full, the middle and high schools

Over the summer, Stephanie Busch, the director of staffing and HR operations for the district, says they’ve hired more than 200 teachers already. Half of those teachers are new, and the other half are teachers coming from other districts.

Busch says teachers who got certified in the last few years may have had a tough time finding jobs because some districts were in “reduction mode.”

“Now, they’re eager and ready and actually pretty well trained because they’ve been substituting and helping in a variety of capacities over the past couple of years,” Busch said.

The district has also hired 12 people for the Spokane Virtual Academy, the district’s option for online learning this upcoming school year.

This is a reduction compared to last year, where it had 50 to 60 teachers dedicated to teaching students who are learning from home.

“It just shows a lot of those students returning to the brick-and-mortar schools, which is a great thing,” Busch said.

The district is now in need of some para-educators. It’s been hiring some over the summer, and now in their last push before the school year, they’re hoping to hire about 40 more. There are normally about 500 para-educators working with them district-wide each year.

“We’re seeing a big influx, despite the housing market, we’re seeing a big influx in special ed population and students coming into our districts with IEPs,” Busch said. “Just continuing that support and making sure we have them all filled there, hopefully by the fall.”

Becky Ramsey, the director of special education, says para-educators mostly help students who are receiving special education services. There are para-educators who help in other capacities and in general education, too. Not every classroom has a para-educator.

“The number of para-educators in classrooms depends on the needs of the students in the classrooms,” she added.

While the district continues to hire teachers and para-educators, Busch says they’re also in need of classified staff, too. Classified staff are people who don’t need a certificate to work like teachers. So, that includes para-educators, those who do custodial work, ground maintenance, etc.

The hospitality industry has been seeing struggles in hiring people, even offering incentives.

Busch says they may eventually see the same situation in struggling to hire with its classified staff, but the district has been doing fine finding people so far.

The district will be holding a job fair this Thursday, August 5 at the NEWtech Skill Center in northeast Spokane from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ramsey says those interested should bring a resume.

For more information on all the positions the district is hiring, click here.