By Jamie Leary

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The Summit County School District is getting ready to welcome back students, fully in-person, for the first time in 17 months. They are also actively hiring for several open positions before classes resume.

(credit: CBS)

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“We’ve hired outstanding teachers; we’ve hired some outstanding central office staff. We still have some positions to fill but our biggest ones right now are transportation,” said Roy Crawford, Superintendent for the Summit County School District.”

Like many districts across the nation, Summit County is having a tough time hiring drivers.

“Bus drivers, you know last year we had 18 routes and this year we only have 10 because we only have 10 bus drivers and so it creates a tremendous hardship on families when we can’t transport all kids and we can’t do our normal runs,” said Crawford.

(credit: CBS)

The district is working on solutions while trying to fill other vacant positions as well.

“Our other issues are in food service, although that’s improving, and in our paraprofessionals- hiring paraprofessionals for classroom support so those are our three biggest issues right now,” he said.

Staffing shortages are an issue state-wide, and especially in mountain communities where affordable housing is at an all-time low.

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Despite the hurdles, many families have been understanding and Crawford says students and staff especially are just excited to be back learning in person.

“Regardless of the transportation issues or the masking it’s an exciting time for our kids and we’re looking forward to having them right now,” said Crawford.

In Summit County, nearly 90% of those between 16 and 18 have been fully vaccinated, and just over 70% of those between ages 12 and 15 have been fully vaccinated.

It’s because of this, Crawford says students will be returning with masks as the only major restriction.

(credit: ThinkStock)

On Monday, Crawford met with a group of eight high school students to discuss the upcoming school year.

“If they can stay in school full-time and not have to cohort and not have to do remote learning, they were more than willing to wear a mask,” he said.

Right now, the district is advertising dozens of positions with competitive wages. Crawford thinks the bus driver issue may be the hardest loss to fill.

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“You work a split shift,” he said. “It does take a special kind of person with a special kind of skill set to be a bus driver and they’re just not here right now.”

Jamie Leary