Credit: Laura Corley/CCJ
Bibb Schools to hire more virtual teachers amid shortage
Bibb County schools needs dozens more teachers.
Of the more than 30 vacancies for instructors here, 13 are needed to teach core academic subjects such as math, science, Spanish and social studies.
The teacher shortage is not a new dilemma, but one that has worsened in recent years in schools across the country. A myriad of factors are at the root of the shortage including fewer college students studying to become educators.
The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, said Emanuel Frazier, assistant superintendent of human resources for Bibb Schools.
“We’re trying to be as creative as we can in terms of the way we recruit,” Frazier said. “We’re trying to have a digital presence so that we can maybe find some people who may have otherwise not looked at Bibb County.”
The district has contracted for years with Proximity Learning Inc., a Texas-based company that provides live streamed instruction to classes across the country, to fill vacancies as needed. The company’s website says it contracts with more than 100 school districts. Newton and Greene counties also contract with the company for virtual teachers, according to school board records.
Students in classrooms are monitored by an in-person substitute teacher while they receive virtual instruction from a certified teacher who can be located anywhere in the country.
The school board voted Thursday to contract with the company for $465,919 to fill up to 14 teaching positions.
“Our goal is, if we’re using them this semester, that we don’t have to go this route in the fall,” Frazier said, adding the district will monitor at least five college graduations this weekend in hopes of filling vacancies.
Proximity Learning was first contracted by the district in August 2016 to provide three teachers for classes at Weaver Middle School, Ballard-Hudson Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. A few months later, in November 2016, the district updated the contract to hire seven more remote teachers.
There were a dozen unfilled teaching positions by December 2020 when the district contracted with the company to hire four more remote teachers.
The amount the company charges per teacher decreases as the district increases the number of contract teachers, Frazier said. The cost per teacher for the latest contract will be $33,280 compared to $48,000 for the three hired in 2016.
“It’s budget neutral, basically,” Frazier said. “The key thing is getting somebody qualified in the classrooms.”
Next semester, the Proximity Learning teachers will teach math at West Side High School, Central High School, Ballard-Hudson Middle School and Weaver Middle School, Spanish at Howard High School and classes at four elementary schools including Carter, Williams, Hartley and Southfield, according to school board documents.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Mercer Center for Collaborative Journalism, You can see additional reporting on Bibb County Schools here.