As teacher vacancies remain open and volunteer positions go unfilled, Mayor Alan Webber announced city employees will be offered up to four hours of paid leave each month to volunteer at Santa Fe Public Schools.
“To the best of my knowledge, this has not been done before,” Webber said during a virtual meeting on Tuesday. “The need is great and the opportunity is great.”
Employees will apply to volunteer through the city as well as the district and will be able to list preferences surrounding their volunteer work, including schools and grade levels.
The program is optional and will be coordinated in part by the city’s Human Resources Department.
“We’re encouraging every individual within the city to at least try it for one hour. If you like it, try all four,” said Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez.
City employees will have a plethora of volunteering options available, though the district has significant needs in tutoring, lunch duty and library support.
The new announcement stems from an idea National Education Association Santa Fe President Grace Mayer initially proposed a few years ago when she said retirements were on the rise throughout the district.
Mayer, Webber and school board president Kate Noble said the need sparked by the coronavirus pandemic renewed the conversation.
The district last week identified 36 open teaching positions, though Chavez noted Tuesday the number is constantly fluctuating. Statewide, more than 1,000 teacher vacancies were identified in schools at the start of this year by researchers at New Mexico State University.
But Meyer said a rise in retirements and resignations is not the only reason the district needs more people willing to help.
Social distancing and new federal pandemic relief funds are also contributing factors, she said. Some volunteer jobs that would usually require one person may need more people to get the job done.
“With new resources from the federal government, we’re expanding even more,” she added. “So, you have a shortage and then you’re trying to build on programming and then also try to be safe, those measures are sort of compounding the issue.”