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Volunteers sought to help at Decatur's Hope Academy, where teacher shortage has been issue
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Volunteers sought to help at Decatur's Hope Academy, where teacher shortage has been issue

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Hope Academy

Hope Academy's entrance is shown when the school was new in 2005. 

DECATUR — A new committee is looking for volunteers to help at Hope Academy, which has been dealing with a shortage of educators and other issues. 

The Help Hope Committee was formed by retired teachers, residents and district leadership in response to concerns raised by parents and staff during recent school board meetings.

Hope Academy Principal Sarah Schrader said they are hoping to recruit as many volunteers as possible. The idea is to find community members who are committed to help young people learn. 

A total of 206 one-hour time slots are available in classrooms in first-fifth grades. Volunteers will have to pass a background check. 

"I think that individuals can learn from one another given their different experiences," said the Rev. Courtney Carson, a school board member. "A teacher with 40 years of experience volunteering in the classroom could teach those with less experience as well as help the students from a different perspective." 

Volunteers could help address issues discussed earlier this month by district leadership and parents, such as the impact of the teacher shortage and the growing student population stretching resources. The Herald & Review on Jan. 19 reported that district officials planned to meet with teacher union representatives to discuss ways to solve the shortage issue. 

The school housed 560 kindergarten-to-eighth graders when it opened 15 years ago and has 737 today.

The Decatur School District, like many across the country, has faced difficulty hiring qualified educators and has responded by having various recruiting efforts. Illinois has an estimated 1,800 vacancies statewide

"We just need some extra support in the classrooms and we want people to come forward with any sort of skill they have that could be used to engage students," said Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Jeff Dase.

He announced during the school board meeting Tuesday that the new group was being formed. 

Volunteer Melverta Wilkins said she wants to get local organizations involved. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and founder of 501(c)3 Sista, Girls and Friends. 

"I've heard a lot of what is going on here at Hope Academy and what is needed and so I would like to try to pool some of the organizations I am in to see if they can get involved," Wilkins said.

The committee meeting Wednesday was preceded by two volunteer orientations. The next one is Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Hope Academy, 955 N. Illinois St.

The Help Hope Academy Committee will meet again on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Hope Academy. 

Remember this? 21 photos of Decatur high school activities through the years

Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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