Bus drivers aren't the only staff needed by schools
District does allow some students to fill positons
WEST FARGO — When it comes to staffing West Fargo school buildings, the current employment climate isn't making positions already difficult to fill any easier.
On Monday, Nov. 14, buildings and grounds director Jeff Goebel said gave the school board a look at how his department is operating as it manages three high schools, three middle schools, 14 elementary schools and one pre-kindergarten building. The district will soon add one more elementary school to the list as Meadowlark Elementary is under construction in Fargo's Rocking Horse neighborhood.
While Goebel said that the department is meeting most of its goals in maintaining the new and older buildings, one continuous problem has been staffing such positions as janitors.
"High turnover in the buildings department is very difficult," Goebel said.
In 2021-22, the district hired 42 custodians and eight of those declined the job offer after starting paperwork. Goebel said the situation is similar to that of the national bus driver shortage in that custodian positions are often not highly desired due to the hours, the schedule and often a lack of benefits.
West Fargo School Board member Dan Schaeffer asked salaries were the biggest factor.
Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said while pay is a large factor in recruitment and retention for custodian jobs, the district is studying how it may raise the salaries for positions such as custodians or drivers. However, the district finds it is no longer just competing with other nearby school districts. Potential employees can search for jobs across industries .The district must compete with other public entities such as the city of West Fargo, which is currently offering much higher pay to attract employees, sometimes even directly from the school district.
"Even the bonuses that the city [of Fargo] gave were more," Board President Patti Stedman said. "Our custodians are underpaid, our bus drivers are underpaid, our teachers are underpaid."
One advantage the school district has used is its potential workforce by way of students. The district has allowed students who are old enough to apply for such positions as part-time custodians and students are able to work around their education schedule while holding down a job.
"We have students from our high schools that work for us," Human Resources director Britnee Nikle said.
Despite the district's need for additional staff such as custodians, paraprofessionals and bus drivers, potential employees must still pass a background check to work in the district for potential safety reasons.
"We have had applicants that we have had to turn away after background checks," Nikle said. "We have to be very picky."