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Association of California School Administrators
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Seven Hills Middle School Principal Sam Schug substitute teaches a distance learning lesson. The Nevada City School District has seen higher demand for substitutes due to COVID-19.
Need for subs rises during COVID
Admins have been pitching in to meet demand
January 11, 2021
School districts that have returned to full or partial in-person learning are seeing higher demand for substitute teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, although many district leaders are struggling to fill that need.
Nevada City School District has had many teachers out sick due to COVID-like symptoms. Superintendent Monica Daugherty said the K-8 district has been fortunate that all staff have tested negative thus far, but the difficulty in obtaining testing has led to lengthier absences for teachers. Teachers need to provide a doctor’s note saying a COVID test is not needed or a negative COVID test before returning to the classroom.
“Right now the problem is the backlog. You cannot even get an appointment in town for a COVID test, so staff are needing to drive to other areas. Usually, it takes a couple of days to get the appointment and then four more days to get the results,” Daugherty said in December. “As you can imagine, when staff go out with a symptom, they are out for over a week.”
Daugherty said they have also experienced several situations where the test was inconclusive, requiring the process to start over again.
Increased teacher absences coupled with fewer available substitutes has meant a shortage of subs to cover classes nationwide. According to a recent survey by the EdWeek Research Center, nearly three-quarters of U.S. school leaders say their need for subs has increased, with about a third reporting that they have only been able to fill half or fewer of their absent teachers’ classes with substitutes.
Nevada City School District, which is currently providing instruction via hybrid and distance-learning models, has about 50 percent fewer substitutes this year compared to previous years, Daugherty said. To recruit more subs, she has been placing personal calls to substitutes instead of relying on the district’s automated system.
Administrators, counselors and elective teachers in the district have also been heading into the classroom to help teach classes for teachers who are absent.
“Everyone has been pitching in,” Daugherty said.
In addition, COVID-19 is impacting the ability of substitutes to obtain their permits due to CBEST test cancellations. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is advising affected employers to use the CBEST waiver option for substitute permits. It requires the employing district or county to get board approval for the individuals that they will be hiring on a CBEST waiver, but it is renewable up to three times under normal circumstances if an applicant attempts all sections, and passes at least one section of the CBEST.
The CTC is also re-issuing waivers due to COVID without requiring evidence of passing one subsection of the CBEST.
Nevada City School District Director of Student Services Brynn Bourke subs for a class whose teacher was absent. The district has seen higher demand for substitutes due to COVID-19.
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