Iowa City Community School District, surrounding communities struggling with school staff shortages

The Iowa City Community School District is understaffed as COVID-19 surges and viruses circulate.


Ayrton Breckenridge

An Iowa City Community School District sign outside of the central office as seen on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Simone Garza, News Reporter

Many schools in Iowa, including the Iowa City Community School District, are face staffing shortages, leaving administrators to keep the students and staff in person.

Currently, the COVID-19 positivity rate for Johnson County over seven days is 29.8 percent.

J.P. Claussen, Iowa City Community School District board member, said the district has dealt with a lack of bus drivers for transporting students.

The bus drivers, who are under a contract with Illinois Central and not directly employed or paid through Iowa City’s school district, will have an additional stipend pay considered at the next school board meeting on Jan. 25, Claussen said.

“We feel an obligation to them, and we are going to make a point to directly get a stipend,” Claussen said. “The bus driver shortage is nationwide. It’s a tough job.”

Claussen said bus drivers tend to be older, which can put them at a higher risk for more severe symptoms of COVID-19. He added that bus driver shortages have not caused any complaints to come before the school board, but they have forced other schools to temporarily close.

“It has not risen to that level at this point,” he said. “Districts in the state just had to close solely because they do not have bus drivers and can’t get kids to school.”

The Davenport Community School District announced a school cancellation on Jan. 3 because of a shortage of bus drivers.

Joseph Brown Sr., interim superintendent of Clear Creek Amana Schools in Tiffin, said his district is also experiencing shortages, specifically among educators.

“We have teachers that are doing double duty,” he said. “In other words, [they] are teaching their class, plus, in the preparation time instead of having prep time during the day,” he said.

Since instructors are covering for absent teachers’ classes and planning their own classes while teaching, teachers are currently being paid an extra $25 an hour.

Financial support is also coming from the state level. In her Condition of the State Address on Jan. 11, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would use federal funds to give a $1,000 retention bonus to teachers that have continued teaching throughout the pandemic.

The director of Clear Creek Amana Transportation Services has occasionally driven routes because of the bus-driver shortage, Brown said.

Brown noted that the lack of access to day cares at the moment is also contributing to staffing shortages.

“We had some employees that had to stay home because day care was closed from COVID-19,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Brown said the district’s goal is to keep students and staff at school in person.

“Our goal is to try to keep everybody here as much as we can,” Brown said. “We want to keep our kids in school, but it’s getting challenging at times to do that”