Optimizing Staff for Safe Student Learning

July 13, 2020 • Cheryl Hoover

Optimizing Staff for Safe Student Learning

During this COVID-19 era, staff must be prepared to be flexible in their job assignments and duties.

As school districts roll out their instructional arrangement plans for the 2020–2021 school year, they must be ready to pivot between on-campus and remote instructional arrangements. This, along with the need to respond to COVID-19 challenges, will require flexibility. For some employees, this means they must be available to perform nontraditional duties that contribute to the health, safety, and learning progress of students. 


Assigning teachers to different roles may be an option this school year with the varied instructional arrangements. Some teachers may be more adept at delivering virtual instruction while others are more comfortable with traditional in-person instruction. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides a 2X2 chart to analyze staff capacity and help make teacher assignment decisions. See the TEA Planning Guidebook for more information on understanding and identifying staff talent.

The goal is to share and manage the workload during this new normal while using each teacher’s strengths to provide positive learning experiences and achieve successful results for students.

Another consideration is to assign teachers to work in pairs or teams to greatly reduce the stress of the new workload and serve students in a more successful, efficient manner. For example, the subject matter teams can work together to compact the curriculum, prepare in-person and virtual lessons, create assignments and projects, plan rotations of students, record lessons, and evaluate student work. At the elementary level, a grade level team can do the same.

Additionally, general education teachers partnering with special education, dyslexia, and bilingual/ESL teachers is vital to meeting the diverse needs of students. In these collaborative settings, teachers can still provide individual feedback, intervention, enrichment, and communication with their “assigned” student groups.

Elective teachers and instructional aides

Elective teachers, including coaches, and instructional aides whose regular assignments are disrupted can contribute regardless what fall instructional plans look like. Duties assigned to these individuals may include:

  • Partnering with the core academic teachers to reinforce basic learning gaps with students
  • Checking homework
  • Monitoring student progress and completion of assignments
  • Managing technology for remote students
  • Contacting students who are not successfully participating
  • Assisting with meal distributions
  • Sanitizing instructional areas and equipment
  • Driving a bus in order to offer additional routes

These employees could also assist the curriculum department on technology integration.

The unique instructional environment also may support a grow-your-own teacher program. Texas Administrative Code (19 TAC §228.35) provides an option for certification candidates employed as a certified educational aide to complete their clinical teaching while remaining employed with a school district. Using educational aide vacancies to hire individuals meeting Alternative Certification Program (ACP) requirements can increase the district’s access to teacher candidates as future needs arise. More information on this topic can be found in an HRX called Getting Paid for Clinical Teaching.


Librarians can continue to help teachers and students regardless of the instructional arrangement being implemented, such as:

  • Giving online book recommendations
  • Organizing remote or small group poetry readings
  • Guiding teachers through a complicated web of free online resources
  • Providing technology support
  • Helping students navigate a deluge of online news and misinformation
  • Recording read-alouds for younger students to view at home
  • Assisting students with accessing online resources
  • Providing online enrichment activities
  • Partnering with counselors to provide students with emotional support

The research skills of librarians make them great candidates for assisting with contact tracing of COVID-19 exposure. A recent HRX article on contact tracing teams and epidemic response provides suggestions for the make-up and use of these teams in schools.

Auxiliary staff

There may be times during the school year when campuses are periodically closed resulting in suspension of bus routes or custodians standing idle. Consider assigning these employees other duties such as distributing meals or assisting with minor maintenance repairs.

Thinking ahead

There is no perfect plan for effectively using staff in nontraditional ways to meet the needs of the students. Considering creative ways to use staff can help a district provide layers of instructional support for students, increase staff support in over loaded areas, retain employees, and help the district reach its goals.  

Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl.hoover@tasb.org.

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Tagged: COVID-19, HR, "Professional development", Staffing