TCEA raises concerns over staffing at Tipp City Board of Education meeting

TIPP CITY — Concerns surrounding sanitizing and cleaning taking away from class time were brought to the attention of the Tipp City Board of Education at their meeting held Monday evening.

“We’re here to ask for your help and your support. One of my teachers and I were having a long conversation the other day, and she mentioned that the brightest light of her day is her students, and that is absolutely true. It made me feel good to hear that through all the stress and the mental fatigue that we’re going through, the students are still the bright light. That says a lot about our teachers and the situation that they’ve been in,” Tipp City Education Association President Heather Yunker said.

Yunker went on to talk about how teachers are now spending a good portion of the school day cleaning all desks, chairs, and commonly touched surfaces between classes, and how this has begun to take away from the time students spend in the classroom, interacting with their teacher, and learning. She said that the district staff feels as though it can’t sustain the current pace with cleaning and sanitizing in addition to the normal responsibilities educators have with teaching. The TCEA is hoping that the board will be able to provide them with additional custodial staff, education aides, as well as filling the business manager position in the hopes that that would assist teachers at Tipp City Schools.

“Our daytime custodial staff, they’re stretched thin. They’re taking so long to clean the lunches, and it’s taking so long for the cleaning supplies to dry, so they’re taking a long time and teachers are having to help them clean the lunch tables while trying to monitor students. Our night custodians, they are also now expected to do the full sanitization of the building, at the same time, trying to clean. I couldn’t imagine them trying to get all of that done, and some of our teachers are also taking it upon themselves to sweep and remove trash,” Yunker said.

According to Yunker, aides would help teachers out by filling the void left due to the fact that Tipp City Schools no longer has parent volunteers due to COVD-19 regulations. Parent volunteers helped with intervention and the enrichment of students, and additional aides could help with filling those gaps and providing support to students, as well as helping with transition time between classes, making sure everyone is social distancing in the hallways, and sanitizing in computer labs, arts rooms, and other commonly used spaces. As for a business manager, Yunker said that having one could help with communication between staff and administration, as everyone is busier than usual and there have been some miscommunication issues and working condition issues as a result.

“Thank you for highlighting these things. I mean, that’s common sense, but you get so tunneled up in the movement of everything, you forget, and as you were going through that I can see how this would not only be stressing but demoralizing after a while, because you’re fatigued, and your emphasis is on teaching and not environmental cleaning,” board member Anne Zakkour said.

Board Member Joellen Heatherly clarified with Yunker that she meant additional staffing for all buildings, which Yunker said could be a possibility. Zakkour asked how an additional custodian could help with all teachers who have to clean between classes, lunch, recess, and other times.

“That would be more of, and aide might be able to assist in that. But maybe a day custodian who does touch points in the building, possibly, and maybe is able to sporadically hit some of the classrooms, as well,” Yunker said.

“Having additonal educational aides that could assist us in that (…) possibly having some support staff and educational aides for a limited period of time to assist,” Yunker said.

Zakkour asked if the pressing need was the educational component or if it was the cleaning component. Yunker said that it was a combination of both. With cleaning, the current materials used have to sit on a surface for five minutes before they can be wiped off, and that teachers are using their lunch time and planning time to keep up with cleaning their classrooms.

“There’s a lot going on in the day that’s not just cleaning, but I think the cleaning is probably the part that is taking a lot of the energy and teachers see that, ‘I don’t have the time to talk to that one student because I’ve got to be cleaning,’ and they can’t be in the room at that time, or they’re moving from class to class,” Yunker said. “Manpower is what we are looking for.”

Heatherly said that there had been a discussion in August of looking into the possibility of having to contract a cleaning company to help with additional cleaning and sanitizing within Tipp City Schools, and that may be something worth revisiting.

Board President Theresa Dunaway said she would reach out to friends and colleagues in other school districts in the meantime to see what they are doing to maximize efficiency and avoid burnout among their staff.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We most definitely want to give you the support that you need, because that’s why you’re here, to educate kids,” Dunaway said.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26.