Colorado school districts struggle to find and keep employees amid low unemployment

Posted at 3:15 PM, Oct 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-31 20:14:52-04

DENVER — From bus drivers to custodians, crucial positions in Colorado public schools are not being filled. 

Officials with Denver Public Schools say they can't find anyone to do the jobs, and even when they do, they don't stay for long.

It’s lunchtime at Denver's Newlon Elementary School, and kitchen manager Maria Gonzalez, dressed in her Halloween costume, and her overworked staff serve meals to 425 rambunctious students.

“We need more people. We can make it happen, but we need people. It's hard,” Gonzalez told Denver 7’s Tom Mustin.

Gonzalez has worked at Newlon for 22 years and loves her job. But like other schools across the state, the school can't find workers to fill open positions.

Gonzalez is having to pick up the slack, from ordering and preparing the food, to doing the finances and end-of-day reports. She also cleans and runs the cash register.

“You're doing the work of two or three people right?” Asked Mustin. “Oh yes,” said Gonzalez. “I have to stay longer to over all my duties in the office. it's all over the district.”

Right now, DPS has 116 openings. Positions for kitchen workers, bus drivers, and teachers are waiting to be filled.  Jeffco and Douglas County schools have even more openings. 

The Newlon staff says it's hard to lure and keep good people amid record-low unemployment. Gonzalez says the people that are hired have no problem leaving for a better offer.

“I was working only with two employees, so we were so desperate,” she said. “We hired two people, but they only lasted one week.”

Gonzalez says it's obvious what her school needs to survive and thrive. The kids are worth it.

“More money, more funds, more programs for the community, for the students, and especially for the kids’ knowledge,” she said.

She supports whatever it takes to make those changes happen.