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COOLIDGE — Coolidge Unified School District officials underestimated the number of students who would be returning to classrooms this year after last year’s pandemic, school board members were told at their meeting last week.

Because of the increasing enrollment, Heartland Elementary had to hire two additional teachers and a third teacher had to be hired for the virtual academy.

Alyssa Garrett, director of business services for the district, said the schools’ enrollment is about 400 more students, resulting in the district having to hire more teachers.

She said the district’s enrollment is about 2,400 students, though it was estimating 2,200 students would show up for school along with 200 others who were lost due to the pandemic.

“The kids all showed up,” she said. “It’s a great problem to have.”

Garrett said the district receives $4,445 per weighted student count, which would result in an increase of $1.8 million when multiplied by 400.

"We did not miscalculate," CUSD Superintendent Dawn Hodge told PinalCentral in a follow-up email. "In order to do this, we would need specific data, students would have needed to be registered and enrolled, etc. We made educated estimations for number of students who we anticipated would enroll with us this school year."

The board was told the district has the resources to fund the three additional teachers as long as the students are there.

After the meeting on Sept. 8, CUSD Superintendent Dawn Hodge said money had been set aside for additional teachers, but the issue is that while there are funds available there are not many qualified teachers who are looking for work.

“Teachers are not out there,” she said. “It’s tough. It’s hard right now because everyone is hiring. We are doing the best we can.”

Another problem is a lack of substitute teachers, and all the district can do is advertise and hope for more applicants.

“Getting subs is really tough to come by,” Hodge said. “We will advertise and look for additional staffing.”

Administrators and other teachers are filling in as substitute teachers because of the shortage, she said, but she added the district does have a few regular substitute teachers who fill in almost every day.

While high school teachers already receive extra money to watch a class during their preparation period, elementary teachers who did the same do not.

The board approved giving those elementary teachers watching a class during their prep period an extra $25.

“We need to take advantage of those teachers as well,” Hodge said. “We know $25 is not much, but it is something.”

The superintendent said the district realizes that not everything will be the same depending on the school, but they are trying to even it out.

“We want to offer that up to the elementary teachers who are having to cover classes,” Hodge said.

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