School for students with autism facing staffing shortages
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The Vista School in Hershey is typically able to take up to 100 students, but with staffing shortages, only 79 can currently attend.

Even with a growing waitlist for the school, staffing coordinator at The Vista School, Joshua Tati said they won’t take more students until the school makes more hires.

“We don’t want to increase the number of students when we don’t have the number of teachers or things that we need,” Tati said.

The Vista School works specifically with students with autism across eight counties.

As nearly 21 classroom seats remain open, the search for teachers, especially within the special education field, is even more difficult due to challenges posed by COVID-19.

“The amount of people that wanna work in this type of environment where you’re around a lot of different people and working with kids in general we’ve definitely taken a hit,” Tati said.

Founder and CEO of the Vista School, Mike Jarmin, said each classroom is at a deficit.

“We’re probably at least one hand short in every classroom and because we have a really high needs population, it’s really important for our therapeutic model to have the classrooms fully and adequately staffed at all times,” Jarmin said.

According to Jarmin, the teacher shortage impacts the students who have very specific needs.

“They’re getting less individualized attention, which means while their program is being run, it’s not being run at the level of efficiency or efficacy that we would like to see,” Jarmin said.

However, Jarmin said efforts are being made from the top to the bottom to bring teachers to the Vista School.

“We have done extensive increases in our payroll. We have done extensive work on retention in terms of the way we interact with our staff and the way we bring them up through our systems,” Jarmin said.

Tati said the real benefit of working at the Vista School is seeing the student’s growth and success.

“Providing autism services, it’s very rewarding. I saw the students when they had real intense behavioral problems to now, they’re working. Employed. It’s great,” Tati said.

On Friday, the Vista School held their 15th annual Walk for Education, which is a fundraiser in order to continue serving the needs of students. The school raised over $25,000.

If interested in working at the Vista School, Jarmin said the minimum education required is a high school degree.

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