SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — School districts across Utah are reporting a critical shortage of employees in advance of the return to class.
Kelly Orton has been feeding Salt Lake City school children for two decades.
As director of child nutrition for the district, finding employees to serve up the food has always been a challenge, but nothing like this year.
“This is unique, this is something I’ve never experienced in my life,” Orton said.
Orton said he is unable to fill 30% of his vacancies. He needs two managers, five assistant managers, and 30 staffers for the 38 schools the district serves.
Orton isn’t the only school district administrator who is lying awake at night wondering how children will get to school, be fed, and educated in the upcoming school year.
Crisis In The Classroom dug into the educational needs for school districts across the state. In three of the largest school districts, they need 461 full and part-time employees.
Desperate districts have principals serving meals, mechanics driving buses, and parents filling labor holes. Districts across the state have raised wages, and still can’t get applicants.
In the Davis County, that district needs to fill 16 bus routes, 135 cafeteria workers and 35 custodians.
In Canyons, they need to hire 19 teachers, 175 part-time and 31 full-time support staffers. Statewide, bus drivers are the largest challenge for districts.
Salt Lake City School District Transportation Director Ken Martinez, said six routes don’t have drivers.
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Things are so tight, that if there are just a few sick calls the entire transportation grid for the district could bog down.
“Literally, it can be a nightmare," Martinez said. “It can be hard to run an organization like that.”
Alpine School District is short on bus drivers like everyone else.
Spokesperson David Stephenson said even if the district was flooded with applicants today, you can’t just toss a new employee a set of keys.
“We have background checks, medical exams, we have licensing that needs to happen,” Stephenson said.
For Orton, who showed 2News around the kitchen at Liberty Elementary, he’s hoping for a miracle, but doesn’t know if one will come.
"I'm sure something will come up, but I really don't know what that is right now," he said.