School districts across Oklahoma are asking for more people to help fill in for teachers because of a shortage of substitutes.
Last week, Newcastle Public Schools announced all of its classes will transition to virtual instruction after more than 30 staff members had to quarantine because of possible COVID-19 exposure. The temporary lag in staffing meant the district could not fully staff each building.
“After doing contact tracing and quarantining, we’re losing staff and staff,” said Newcastle Superintendent Melonie Hau. She added that the district has been able to find substitutes to fill-in only about 30% of the time so far this year.
The district’s pool of substitute teachers is a fraction compared to last year.
“Some of them have said that they are not willing to sub because of COVID,” Hau said.
Norman, Edmond, Deer Creek Public Schools and other districts are also working with a fraction of their typical number of substitutes or have asked for more people to sign up for the job.
“It’s a statewide issue,” said Alicia Priest, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association. She said the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 has led to many substitutes at bay, especially the older individuals.
Hau said, “(The virus) causes someone to think, ‘is 60 dollars a day worth it for me to potentially get sick?’”
Newcastle Public Schools is set to return to in-person learning on Monday.
Each school district is responsible for handling its pool of substitutes. Anyone looking to learn more about the job should contact their local school district administration.
“We have some fabulous substitutes that have been with us for a while, and continue to stay with us,” Hau said. “We just don’t have enough of them.”