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Portland schools consider how to address a severe shortage of ed techs this fall

A shortage of nearly 30 ed techs is prompting school officials in Portland to discuss plans that could involve reassigning staff or temporarily reducing services.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said the district can provide special education services to children right now, but the shortage is especially acute in specialized programs for children with significant disabilities.

Botana said if the district can't properly staff all of its programs in the future, ed techs could be temporarily reassigned to other schools or programs. And if that doesn't cover enough vacancies, the district could move to periodically provide only four days of services to some children in certain weeks.

"Depending on how many kids are in the program, and how short we are on staff — the following week, or two weeks after that, or three weeks after that, they might have another day that they only have four days of service, instead of five," Botana said.

The district said the goal would be to "minimize disruption" of special education services, and any missed time for students would be made up through extended school year programming.

Gay McDonald, the executive director of MADSEC, representing special education administrators, said burnout and higher wages in other industries have led many staff to leave the profession. McDonald said districts are having to push out some instruction into the summer, because they don't have enough workers to provide it during the year.

"You look at compensatory education, and how you can make those services up. And more and more of those conversations are happening, because they do not have staff," McDonald said.

McDonald says a survey from her organization found a shortage of about 435 ed techs in Maine last fall.