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School districts offering bonuses to address staffing shortages

Grants Pass High School
Grants Pass High School
School begins for Grants Pass School District 7 on Monday.

With a new school year approaching, some Oregon districts are struggling to recruit and retain staff. As a result, they’re turning to federal and state funding sources to attract potential teachers.

Some districts are turning to House Bill 4030, which was passed in the 2022 legislative session and provides nearly $80 million to support retention and recruitment of K-12 educators and support personnel.

In Grants Pass, School District 7 is short 27 support staff, such as education assistants and playground supervisors. According to HR Director Todd Bloomquist, this is unusual.

"We normally are not having that many positions that are unfilled still," he said. "We are actively recruiting and looking for folks who would be willing to do these important jobs in our classrooms."

Grants Pass will use state funds to offer extra stipends to 900 staff in September and January. Stipends could be $450 or $500.

Classes start in the district on Monday. Without adequate staff, employees will have to be redistributed in an effort to fill in the gaps.

Phoenix-Talent School District 4, meanwhile, used federal money from a COVID school emergency relief fund to offer a $1,000 spring bonus to all 315 of its staff members. It will do that again in October.

Brent Berry, the superintendent of Phoenix-Talent, said the district has sufficient staff. But one factor may be that enrollment is down by at least 350 students.

"It may be that we can hold off on hiring some of these positions just because the numbers in our district are down a little bit," Berry said.

Enrollment in Grants Pass School District 7 is also down by about 500 students.

But even with lower enrollment, some districts are still struggling to support the students they do have.

"We're really needing people who kind of have an interest in helping kids and being part of shaping what happens tomorrow and being part of the change for the future," Bloomquist said.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.