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Soda Springs has innovative way to find classroom aides

Soda Springs has five apprenticeship programs, including the teacher aid program. | Soda Springs School District

Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on September 5, 2023

SODA SPRINGS — High school students are filling the demand for classroom aids while gaining experience in an innovative apprenticeship program in the Soda Springs School District.
“It’s shocking to see what those kids are doing in these elementary schools,” said high school principal Jess McMurray.
The 924-student district had about 25 aids-in-training during the 2022-2023 school year and the plan is to continue to build the program this year, which was inspired by the pandemic.
“It was the pandemic more than anything that reminded us that we have kids who can make significant contributions to society,” McMurray said.
Soda Springs has five apprenticeship programs, including the teacher aid program. McMurray expects that number to rise in concert with the Department of Labor this year.
“We have a shortage of high quality paraprofessionals in a rural area like we live in. We’re always pulling teeth trying to get these paraprofessionals,” McMurray said.
The teacher aid apprenticeship is set up through the Idaho Department of Labor. Students enroll in corresponding college courses, which will transition from Idaho State University to the Idaho Digital Learning Alliance this year. Early child development aid will work with students one-on-one and teach supervised lessons.
Because demand for this program is so high, the district is able to choose “top notch” students who are matched with high-performing teachers. Often times, the elementary students most enjoy the high school students in the room over the adults, McMurray said.
While most in the apprenticeship program are elementary aides, student apprentices spread into middle, high school and special education classes.
Additional perks are pay, credits and senior project work. Student apprentices earn $10 per hour. Completing the program can earn the students a $750 stipend and their own laptop.
The program also can lead to a professional career. Soda Springs has hired two former high school aides as paraprofessionals this year. Two others enrolled in four-year teaching programs.
Classroom aids remain a challenge to hire
While the district remains excited about early returns from its teacher aide program, this not does belie the fact that teacher aides and parapros remain a challenge for districts to hire even with SDE’s efforts to address the shortage with increased funding for classified staff and the possibility of applying literacy intervention dollars to bring in literacy paraprofessionals, according to Vallivue assistant superintendent Joseph Palmer.
“Vallivue has not seen a significant uptick in filling classified positions since the increase in pay as we are still in a highly competitive situation with the private sector. However, the pay increase is certainly helping us retain employees,” Palmer said in an email.
The issue is that college-educated and certified paraprofessionals are going to earn less than paraprofessionals in other fields. Zip Recruiter lists the state median pay for classroom paraprofessionals at $14 per hour or about $30,000 annually. Compared to a paralegal, who earns almost $20 or $41,000 as a base salary in Idaho (per Indeed), there lies an $11,000 or almost 37% gap in pay.
“If you’re hiring someone off the street as an adult, they’re not going to come in and work for 12 bucks an hour,” McMurray said.
Watch the program in practice in the video player above.

https://www.idahoednews.org/jspt/jspt.js
The post Soda Springs has innovative way to find classroom aides appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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