In an effort to combat a district-wide shortage of substitute teachers, the Mechanicsburg school board approved a pilot program on Tuesday night that offers monthly incentives for substitutes.

Last month, district officials said Mechanicsburg, along with many other area school districts, continues to experience shortages of substitute teachers. In fact, the state Department of Education has recorded a 60 percent reduction of the number of teacher certifications issued “in the past few years,” Mechanicsburg officials said.

“The stress that this causes for our administrative assistants and administrators is the number-one concern that our building administrators bring back to me,” Superintendent Mark Leidy said.

According to a recent review of the district’s substitute pool, 45 percent of Mechanicsburg’s substitute teachers have worked fewer than 20 days in a school year, said Gregory Longwell, the district’s director of business operations.

The new program offers incentives of $75 for substitute teachers who work at least five days within an eligible month in the district and a $160 incentive for those working at least 10 days per eligible month. The incentives will be awarded in addition to the district’s daily pay rate for substitutes, which is $105 per day, Longwell said.

The program will remain in effect for the duration of the 2019-20 school year. Administrators said they plan to evaluate the pilot’s effectiveness at the end of the year before deciding whether to continue it next year.

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New bond issue

Also on Tuesday, the school board authorized the district to proceed with the issuance of a General Obligation Bonds Series 2019 for $33.915 million. The bonds are intended to fund remaining commitments of the Shepherdstown Elementary School and Upper Allen Elementary School projects, and provide about $20 million for upcoming projects at Broad Street Elementary School and Northside Elementary School.

At a district finance/facilities meeting on Aug. 27, Brad Remig of Public Financial Management said now is a good time to initiate the district’s next financing phase because interest rates are falling. Tuesday’s action is part of an ongoing four-year plan initiated in 2018-19 to fund renovations and/or expansions at all district buildings over the next several years.

In August 2017, the school board authorized architects to design renovations and expansions at Broad Street Elementary School, Northside Elementary School, Shepherdstown Elementary School and Upper Allen Elementary School. Construction began at Shepherdstown and Upper Allen this year and should be done by the start of the 2020-21 school year, district administrators said last month.

Work at Broad Street Elementary is scheduled to begin in spring 2020 with completion scheduled for the start of the 2021-22 school year. The Northside project is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and is expected to be done in time for the 2022-23 school year.

A detailed bond purchase proposal for the school board’s consideration is expected later this year, Longwell said.

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