Fossil staff faces post-pandemic challenges, possible new beginnings


M. May

Staff shortages have affected every school in the country, Fossil being no exception.

Caroline Sears and Melissa May

As we near a much needed holiday break, Fossil Ridge High School students and staff hold tight onto motivation. This year has not been spared from the trials of COVID-19, from fear of outbreaks to staff shortages.

For the most part, days defined by contact tracing and remote learning are behind us, but the residual effects of the pandemic remain.

Much like public schools across the country, Fossil is facing substitute, kitchen staff, paraprofessional, and custodial staff shortages. The cause of this is a mystery, though the pandemic played a large role in it. Bradly Nye, Fossil’s Assistant Principal and Activities Director, claims “we can assume that people in the community have more choices than ever regarding potential opportunities for employment.” 

The staff expected so many absences before Thanksgiving break, they decided to cancel classes. Although the two extra days were helpful for many to recharge, so much so that it may become a permanent change, the fundamental problems are much deeper. 

In such an exhausting time, teachers had to become more than just educators. In order to maintain their students’ attention through a screen, they had to become entertainers too. And while in person, they had to ensure coronavirus safety while navigating the additional difficulty that comes with gaps in students’ education. This burnout has caused teachers from all over the United States to leave their jobs.

Even before the pandemic, most schools across the country were facing paraprofessional and bus driver shortages. 

This is an era of uncertainty for many teachers, and the upcoming year has great potential to cause even more. 

PSD’s Timnath Middle-High school is set to open its doors in August. (PSD )

With the expansion into Timnath and subsequent population growth, Fossil has been facing an overcrowding problem for the past few years. To combat some of this overcrowding, the district has decided to construct a new high school located near Prospect Road. The school is already under construction and is slated to be finished and ready to open by August of 2022.

Although the new Timnath school is an exciting new project for the district, its opening could have a domino effect on all PSD staff. Current Freshman and Sophomores would be able to transfer to the Timnath school next year, leaving Fossil with fewer students. How this all shakes out will affect budgeting and who will be hired next year, both at Fossil and Timnath. 

PSD uses a probation/non-probationary system meaning that if teachers are within their first three years of teaching, they are considered “on-probation” and when it comes to budget cuts, these teachers would be the first to go.

Teachers who have been working at a PSD school for 3 years are called “non-probationary” and their jobs are secure within PSD, even if they have to leave a certain school due to budget cuts.

However, faculty is prioritizing what classes students want to take in upcoming years, so these changes may vary from department to department. Nye stated, “When we try to figure out what departments may be affected, it’s going to be around what the students who are coming to Fossil ultimately sign up for,” This process occurs every year, but with the new school’s opening approaching, the decisions that it results in will carry more weight.

Nye has helped with hiring for the new school and believes the staff is a vital piece to ensuring a good educational and emotional environment. He is especially excited to help with creating something new. 

“I think when you’re building something from scratch, there’s a lot of excitement and creative energy, because you don’t have to worry about how people are going to respond. You’re more just thinking about what it is ideally, we want to build as a school and as a culture and have a chance to do that,” he said.

Despite the possible uneasiness or excitement, Nye would like to remind students that, “Everyone at Fossil is working at their full capacity to create a positive and successful experience for every student during a very difficult time in education,” This pressure has been felt by all the staff and students. Nye even claimed that this year is the most challenging of his 23-year career.

Whether it be staff shortages, possible budget cuts, or exciting new opportunities, “The only way we will move forward in a positive way is by treating each other, no matter what your status or position in our community is, with grace and kindness,” said Nye. With those words in mind, Nye and all of the students and staff hope to finish the semester strong.