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School districts in Denver metro area struggle with staffing shortages

"The common response from staff is, 'We’re not sure how much longer we can do this,'" a superintendent said. "My gentle pushback is, we have to continue to do it."

DENVER — Critical staffing shortages have school districts in the metro area making some tough decisions. On Wednesday, JeffCo Public Schools sent a letter to parents of students that attend option schools within the district. Starting Monday, Oct. 4 bus routes for all JeffCo Options schools will be suspended, the email read.

Rhonda Harguth, a JeffCo mom, told 9NEWS the suspension will force her to leave work everyday to pick her son up from school.

"Thankfully, I have flexible bosses that are willing to work with me, but we were looking at having to pull him out [of the program]," Harguth explained. "I imagine that there are a lot of parents that are thinking they're going to have to pull them out of these programs." 

"While it is an unfortunate situation and, despite robust and creative efforts to hire staff in many key support areas of our district, that work has not provided any improvement for us," JeffCo schools said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the school district said the following:

"We have been messaging our community for months about the shortages we face, encouraged them to consider joining our district and to tell friends and family, and the possibility that changes may have to take place because of these shortages, with special emphasis on transportation. We understand the frustration; we too are frustrated. Additionally, the issue is a nationwide problem and has been covered extensively in media everywhere."

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Northeast of JeffCo Public Schools, 27J School District is in a dire situation. Last week, Superintendent Dr. Chris Fiedler shared with parents the tough news.

With at least 100 openings for bus drivers, substitute teachers and cafeteria workers, some schools may have to cut bussing if positions don't get filled soon. Others could return to remote learning, and services like breakfast and lunch could be suspended.  

"We're not unique," Fiedler said. "I just think we're hit a little harder because we're not able to compete with other school districts around that are in the same situation specific to school districts that can pay more."

Fiedler said there is a mill levy and bond up for a vote in November that he hopes passes. The measures would increase funding for the school district and allow them to pay competitive wages to try and increase staffing at schools. 

"The common response from staff is we’re not sure how much longer we can do this right? My gentle push back is we have to continue to do it right, we know we can do it. 

"The common response from staff is, 'We’re not sure how much longer we can do this,' right?" Fiedler said. "My gentle pushback is, we have to continue to do it."

As the district attempts to fill positions, Fiedler encouraged parents to help out if they're able to. 

"Come volunteer, come in and do lunch duty, cover recess duty, do those things so staff members have time to catch their breath and not have to do those things," he said. 

RELATED: DPS forced to change lunch menus due to delivery delays

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