Substitute shortage could impact upcoming school year

Jessica Miles
Updated: August 03, 2020 07:17 PM
Created: August 03, 2020 06:19 PM

Substitute teachers are the lifeline that keeps classrooms functioning when teachers aren't able to be with their students.  

Daniel Reynolds is a substitute in the St. Paul School District, which plans to start school via distance learning this fall.

He's not expecting much work with St. Paul right away because of that.

"If there's another district that's opening up, they (Teachers On Call) might say, 'If you want to be compensated, if you want to work, this is what you'll have to do,'" Reynolds said.

But that could change quickly if the district moves into hybrid or in-person learning.

"Obviously, I want to be back with students," he said. "That's where my passion is."

Teachers On Call schedules Reynolds and 3,000 other substitutes each day in Minnesota. The organization says there is already a national shortage of substitutes. COVID-19 is now making things trickier.

"We literally have hundreds of jobs that are available now," said Al Sowers, with Teachers On Call.

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Sowers says so far in Minnesota, fewer than 10 percent of substitutes have said they don't plan to come back in the fall due to COVID-19, a number they are pleasantly surprised with.

EdWeek Research Center conducted a survey of more than 2,000 school administrators.  

Of the administrators, 70 percent said they will need more subs this year. 

Some districts have building subs, a substitute that covers for that school only, and is there five days a week filling in for any teacher in the building who calls out.

It's a concept that is gaining more interest due to COVID-19.

"Because with COVID, and with the school setting, we aren't sure what is going to happen," Sowers said. "And we don’t want a teacher going from one school to another school."

As a building substitute, Reynolds is hopeful to head back to class but remains cautious about what that may look like.

"I don't want to interact with students at the possible expense of their quality of life, or my quality of life, or my family's quality of life," Reynolds said.

Sowers said the substitute shortage is expected to continue for the next 24 to 36 months. For information on substitute teaching, click here.

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