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ESD partners with private company to fill substitute teacher shortage

Douglas Education Service District has contracted with a private company to recruit and hire substitute teachers for local schools.

EduStaff, LLC, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will staff licensed substitute teachers in the 13 Douglas County school districts beginning Nov. 1.

Superintendent Michael Lasher said in an email there are normally 300 substitute teachers contracted in Douglas County at any given time.

But many substitutes have chosen not to teach during the pandemic, he said.

“COVID-19 has impacted education, which has required the education community to think of new ways to meet the needs of students. Substitutes are a valued part of our community and integral to the daily operations of schools,” Lasher said.

Turnover rates also tend to be high because many substitutes are hired directly by schools that are facing gaps due to a teacher shortage countywide and statewide, Lasher said.

Partnering with EduStaff is a cost-efficient and effective way to provide the schools with substitute teachers, he said.

The company will recruit and hire the needed substitutes. Lasher hopes the streamlined service will attract new substitutes for the district.

He said the change will reduce the cost of hiring substitutes, saving the district money.

According to EduStaff’s website, it is one of the largest educational staffing companies in the nation.

The company was formed in 2010 to provide substitutes for Michigan school districts, and now provides 20,000 substitute teachers and support staff daily to schools across the country.

Pickin' great pumpkins at the Kruse Farms patch Saturday

A gourd time was had by all at the Kruse Farms pumpkin patch Saturday afternoon.

Scarlet Ellis, 7, of Oakland, said she was looking for a really big pumpkin with green bumps so she could make a witch out of it.

“Me, my mom and my sister are being witches for Halloween, so we want to get some ones that look like witches,” Scarlet said.

The three witches they planned to be were the Sanderson sisters from the movie “Hocus Pocus.”

Scarlet’s sister Grace Ellis, 9, however, said she wanted a pumpkin with a squarish shape.

“I want to make one that looks kind of like a Frankenstein,” she said.

The girls said their favorite thing about Halloween is the trick or treating.

“I also like doing costumes,” Scarlet said. “I like how you get to have all different costumes every year and it’s super fun for me because I get to pick out different ones.”

Aleah and Danny Burris, of Roseburg, brought their child Atlas, 19 months, out for the third time this year.

Aleah Burris said she used to come to the Kruse Farms pumpkin patch as a kid herself.

They selected three pumpkins.

“I like that this one’s wonky,” Aleah said of one of the pumpkins. “I always go for the funny lookin’ ones.”

Danny Burris preferred a tall pumpkin, with lots of green color on it, flat on one side and round on the other.

“I always try to find some green on there and get the big ones so we can do the traditional Jack o’ lantern style,” he said.

He planned to carve the round side.

Crystal Rhine, of Roseburg, brought her daughter Belle Rhine, 11.

They were looking for a tall and big pumpkin.

She planned to dress up as an anime character from the show “My Hero Academia” for Halloween and to carve the pumpkin as another character from the show.

Crystal Rhine said she was going to carve her pumpkin as Chucky, from the “Child’s Play” films.

Her favorite thing about Halloween is the scary stuff.

“Horror is my favorite everything, so Halloween’s my favorite,” she said.

The Rhines also planned to visit the corn maze at Kruse Farms, a plan Belle described as fun and medium scary.

Kate Mattox, of Roseburg, said her son Gabriel Mattox, 3, was looking for mud and pumpkins at the pumpkin patch.

“I’m going to get my hands all muddy,” he said, and he proudly showed off his boots.

Gabriel said he wanted his mom to carve a happy face in his pumpkin.

Mattox said she was glad the rain had cleared up in time for their visit.

“It’s a nice family adventure and fun for everyone,” she said.

Jeremy Zernicke, of Roseburg, brought his daughter Krystal Zernicke, 10,

Crystal Rhine said she went through the maze with her boyfriend about a month ago, long enough to not remember how to get out.

It’s not so easy, she said.

“Last year we had to end up cutting through the corn. We couldn’t find the end,” she said.

Jeremy Zernicke, of Roseburg, brought his daughter Krystal, 10, and her friend Delilah Russell, 11, to the pumpkin patch where they had snagged four pumpkins.

“It’s good for the kids to get out and do something that’s not on their phones,” he said.

Krystal said she was planning to carve one of her pumpkins for her grandmother’s big Halloween party Saturday.

Krystal and Delilah also planned to dress up as characters from “My Hero Academia.” Krystal’s costume would involve a purple wig and a horn.

Thousands of pumpkins were spread out across the 14-acre patch.

Many families took a ride on a hay wagon to reach the patch. Craig Reed, aka Punkin Head, drove the tractor that pulled them out.

Reed said this was his third season driving the pumpkin wagon at Kruse Farms.

“I thoroughly enjoy it. I love seeing parents and grandparents bringing their kids out. I think the kids need to be exposed to this type of thing, he said.

Reed said he went out in a hay wagon to a pumpkin patch when he was an elementary school student himself.

The hay wagon has taken pumpkin pickers out to the patch every weekend, though the rides were cut short early in the afternoon last Sunday because it was raining sideways, he said.

The other October weekends have been beautiful, he said.

Reed said it’s fun to see some of the young kids who end up with a pumpkin that’s bigger or heavier than they are.

“They think they can get it on the wagon, but they struggle with it and so a parent helps or I help. But that’s always an interesting scene to watch,” he said.

The biggest of this year’s pumpkins was selected on the first weekend. It weighed 101 pounds.

Evan Kruse said the family is happy to provide the pumpkin patch.

“It’s a good family activity and we love to have the families come out. It’s tradition for a lot of people and there’s not a lot of places in the area that have a facility to do something like that,” he said.

The Kruse Farms pumpkin patch, corn maze and hayrides will be open again today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $7 per pumpkin, whether the pumpkin is a little bigger than a basketball or 101 pounds.