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Murrow College of Communication at WSU

A struggling district: Pullman schools are facing an all-time high in staffing shortages

PULLMAN, WASH. (Murrow News 8) – We continue to hear about it, the staffing shortages schools are facing across the country, but do we understand it? Do we feel it here in Pullman?

The answer is yes, we do. The Pullman School District is struggling as the number of substitutes continue to decline. Faculty and staff are working endlessly to cover classes, to make sure school stays in person for their students.

“It takes a village to make school continue to run,” Pullman School District Assistant Superintendent Roberta Kramer said.

“It’s exhausting,” Jackie Eveland said.

However, no matter how exhausting things get throughout this pandemic, to the parents, faculty and staff, the constant running around is worth it, if it means their kids can be back in the classroom.

“We know they want to be here,” Pullman High School Principal Juston Pollestad said. “And we definitely want them here.”

It took a toll on the community, the nation, the world, as classes were moved online, and students interacted with their friends and teachers from behind a screen. So, when the time came to decide, the school district knew they would do whatever it took to be in person this year.

In this case, that meant hiring emergency substitutes. The state verification process to become an emergency substitute for the district is simple if you have completed a bachelor’s degree.

Eveland is a parent of two children here in Pullman, one who attends Lincoln Middle School and one who attends Franklin Elementary. She is also the full-time owner of Building Blocks Child Care Center, and when her kids were at home 27/4 last year during quarantine, it was incredibly hard to juggle work, home, and online school.

“I needed them back in school, for multiple reasons,” Eveland said.

Eveland is also an emergency substitute for the district.

“If they need help, I’ll help,” she said. “I want my kids back in school and even if I work full-time, I can make time.”

The harsh reality is, when asked if these emergency substitutes are frequently used, Kramer said:

“Every day.”

Those two words alone are enough to demonstrate how dire the situation for these Pullman schools is. The district has emphasized they are thankful for people like Jackie who are taking time out of their already busy days, to get in the classroom.

And it’s not only those emergency substitutes covering classes; Pullman High School’s principal and staff have already covered more classes this fall than they would in a normal, full year of school. The fall of 2021 is pulling everyone in multiple directions.

“I worry about our staff, that is getting stretched thin,” said Pollestad, wondering how much longer his faculty can continue to work the way they are now.

Despite being burnt out, exhausted, every day a challenge, everything always comes back to the people school is for, the students.

“We’re fueled off of our students, and their want to be back in school,” Pollestad said. “That’s what keeps us going, keeps people coming back, keeps people working hard even when they’re really, really tired.”

With an end not in sight, the Pullman School District will continue to send out newsletters, post pleas on social media, and email families of students in the district, to urge anyone who can help to contact Human Resources Manager Dagny Myers.

Schools across the nation need help. Pullman needs help.



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