Toltec School District logo (2020)

ARIZONA CITY — Like many other schools, Arizona City Elementary is struggling to fill vacant teaching positions due to a shortage in the state.

During a special meeting on Wednesday, the Toltec School District board discussed the idea of hiring virtual teachers.

Arizona City Elementary is short three teachers for science, social studies and English language arts for its junior high students. Principal Judy Winsberg provided the alternative option of hiring virtual teachers for the rest of the school year.

It could be a reverse scenario to how students are currently doing distance learning — instead of the students being at home and the teacher in the classroom, the students would be in the classroom and the teacher would be in a different location.

Classroom coaches would be on hand with the students to help as the classes are a blend of livestreaming online instruction and project-based learning.

Superintendent Denise Rogers told the Governing Board that there had only been one applicant.

The cost from contractor Elevate K-12 to fill all three positions at a reduced rate would be $44,400 each for two teachers and $40,300 for a third.

Business Manager Tim McCain told the board that the district could use funds from its enrollment stability grant and the COVID-19 relief grant.

“I know that it’s hard to hire teachers and I know with COVID, teachers are more reluctant,” board member Pam Long said. “We are talking an extra $80,000 and keep in mind this isn’t just until December, this is until the end of our current school year.”

Long added that things are always changing and asked what would happen if students can go back to school full-time after Christmas break as her concern was that the district would have spent a lot of money.

“That’s a concern even though there are grant monies to cover it,” Long said. “I’m sure grant monies could be used in other places. From what I’ve seen because I also work for a K-8 elementary district, virtual in my opinion is not the way to go on a permanent basis until the end of the year because kids are not doing well with it, even your excellent students are having a bit of a hard time.”

Board member Tim Cason agreed that the end of the school year is too long of a commitment as things could change and the district would still be committed to providing virtual learning.

Board member Dennis Callahan’s biggest concern was the cost.

“How can we continue to just throw money at everything that comes up on our agenda?” Callahan said. “We’re right back where we started three years and nine months ago. Every board meeting that I have been to in the last year, we have adjusted pay to somebody, not down but up, and you cannot continue to do that. We cannot spend any more money until we know where are, we know where we stand, we know when we’re going to open, we know what we’re going to do and we know how much money we have. I as a board member am not willing to approve anything until I have some concrete evidence of what’s real.”

Callahan made a motion not to approve the agenda item, which was agreed on by the rest of the board.

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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