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Concerns over staffing shortages, lack of supervision lead parent to pull daughter from public school

Cheri Shrake said she unenrolled her daughter from Reynolds High School this week, in part due to staffing shortages and a lack of district communication.

TROUTDALE, Ore. — School districts across Oregon are doing all they can to find solutions to staffing shortages, but some parents are concerned about what it means for their children’s education.

Cheri Shrake is mom to a high school freshman who formerly attended Reynolds High School. Shrake said she just unenrolled her daughter this week.

“It came to my attention last week that the staffing shortage […] is so bad that there are times they don't have substitute teachers and nobody's watching students,” said Shrake. “We entrust [the district] with our kids to teach them and if they don't have the staff to do that, what are our kids doing in school?”

Shrake said her daughter told her there’d been at least 10 instances where there was no teacher or substitute in the classroom. Shrake wishes the district would have communicated that to parents.

Reynolds School District spokesperson Steve Padilla said the principal assured him a staff member is monitoring students at all times. Padilla also addressed Shrake’s concerns about the district’s communication with parents.

“We can't possibly notify parents every single time that a teacher is out and that we have to get an administrator,” said Padilla. He added that if they did notify parents each time that happened, that’s all they’d be doing.

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While Shrake was unhappy with the level of communication from the district concerning staffing shortages, last Friday Shrake’s daughter heard a rumor about a possible gun on campus. When Shrake heard nothing from the district, she decided to pull her daughter out of school and homeschool instead.

Padilla said the rumor was investigated and cleared. Contacting parents would take more staff, time and resources away from students’ education, said Padilla.

But like the substitute shortage, Shrake wanted more communication.

“If they want us to trust them with our kids, they need to be transparent with us, no matter how inconvenient it might be for families, families deserve to know,” Shrake said.

The staffing shortage is an issue all over the country. But Padilla said after a job fair last Friday and Saturday, they’re in the process of hiring nearly 20 employees ranging from bus drivers to substitute teachers.

At least one other district says incentives appear to be working. For instance, the Beaverton School District has seen a 10-fold increase in applications for substitute teaching positions.