Getting Back to School Safely: Dealing With A Lack of Substitutes

Posted at 3:53 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 15:53:25-04

LANSING, Mich. — Uncertainty has ruled the COVID pandemic.uncertainty with income, jobs, the future. Now there’s uncertanty for schools if teachers get sick – and what will happen if there’s not a substitute to take over a class.

As a mother of 4 Kathryn Barrett has found herself at a crossroads, “There’s just a lot of unknown right now for substitutes”

One that pits her love for her career as a substitute teacher in Florida against the safety of herself and her family

“I love my job. I know a lot of subs say it’s not worth it to go back- we make just above minimum wage.”

Right now it is a crossroads being navigated by countless substitute teachers nationwide as they try to get back into the classroom— and it has the potential to worsen a problem that has been growing since well before the pandemic

“It’s a mathematical certainty that we’ll be opening up schools without enough teachers.”

Nicola Soares (Suarez pronunciation) is President of Kelly Education- a substitute teacher recruiting firm.

In the mid-2000’s- the group says 10 percent of incoming college freshmen were pursuing a degree in education. Today- that number had dropped by more than half- to 4 and a half percent.

Add in the fact that many substitute teachers are older retirees- they might choose not to come back because of the health risks.

It’s one of many reasons why Kelly Education estimates teacher vacancy rates will increase by 50% and the need for subs will rise by more than 70%.

“We’ve been working around the clock anticipating what that demand was going to be. And I think every single school district is going to require substitute teachers”

To incentivize subs- states have adjusted. In Iowa the governor suspended the limit on how long a sub can teach a certain class and decreased the minimum age requirement from 21 to 20- hoping furloughed workers or recent grads may look to subbing as an alternative

“What if I get sick? I don’t have any medical insurance through Kelly services- so will I be on my own for 14 days while I’m quarantining?”

Only more uncertainty this mother weighs and manages as she decides the future of herself and family

And just a reminder, FOX 47 is airing a half hour special titles "Safely Back to School" next Tuesday, August 4, at 7PM

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