ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The start of school is approaching, and with that comes new leadership for superintendents in Monroe County.

Dr. Casey Kosiorek, Hilton Superintendent, is now president of Monroe County’s Council of Superintendents.

The title rotates every year to a new superintendent, alternating from the county’s east side to the west. In this position, Dr. Kosiorek oversees several topics and concerns for superintendents, parents and staff across the county.

In previous years, COVID-19 has mostly been at the forefront. But this year, things feel different, Dr. Kosiorek said.

“We want to make it as normal as possible,” he said. “We know COVID is here to stay, but I think this is another step to coming back and experiencing what everyone enjoyed prior to the pandemic.”

He said masks are optional, and will likely be optional in the foreseeable future. Many strict regulations from previous years are no more.

But it doesn’t mean they’re not keeping a close eye on things.

“The CDC has released guidelines on isolation, so if someone were to test positive or have symptoms, they stay home and test,” he said. “If you test positive, there is five-day isolation, so we’re going to continue with that.”

Currently, Dr. Kosiorek says topics like security, staffing shortages and school supplies are more on the forefront.

After the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas a few months ago, safety has become a huge focus. Dr. Kosiorek says parents and students can take comfort in knowing things are changing.

“Coming into our building today, you had to be scanned in, show your license, with our visitor management system,” he said, about Quest Elementary School. “Many schools have moved forward with bullet-resistant film on their windows.”

And some districts have seen an increase in school resource officers, as well as more ways to monitor for concerning keywords on computers.

These times can be an adjustment for students, Dr. Kosiorek said, especially if they’re feeling anxious. On that note, Dr. Kosiorek says they have more mental health resources, across the board.

“Aid we received from NYS and the federal government across the county — a lot of that has been earmarked for hiring additional mental health staff.”

When it comes to staffing in other areas, like technology, math and nursing, he says many districts are battling major shortages. In the past, there could be up to 400 applicants for one elementary position. In recent months, that figure has looked closer to 30.

“Individuals are finding it very difficult after the pandemic,” he said. “There was amazing stress on teachers during that time […] Some folks are making different decisions, they ultimately want to be happy.”

To work around shortages, districts have been amping up outreach on social media platforms, and hosting job fairs. This can result in a lot of walk-ins, and on-the-spot hires.

Many districts are also providing certifications for those interested in working, as opposed to looking for employees who have already sought out those certifications on their own.

So far, Dr. Kosiorek is hopeful these tactics will make for a smooth transition this fall. Another difference this year to smooth out the back-to-school transition is school supplies. Following high inflation, many districts have stepped in to cover the cost of supplies in their budget.