Missing Substitutes

Updated: Jan 28

Subbing and staffing shortages here in Douglas County and across the country.

By Hayley Withrow '23

Walking into a classroom and seeing a substitute usually implies a free day where students can take a break from the usual lectures and projects. Having a substitute used to be something rare, a once a quarter or semester type of thing. However, with COVID-19 and the myriad of struggles it has brought on, having a substitute is increasingly and arguably alarmingly common.

COVID-19 created so many problems for schools across the globe that listing them would take days. Here at Chaparral, school switched constantly from partially

Many classes are without a teacher, image courtesy of in-person, to totally online, to in-

WBEZ Chicago. person, back to online, and back again. Masks were required, thorough cleanings had to happen during the week, and plans had to be consistently canceled. This year was supposed to be different following vaccinations and a low case count nationally in summer 2021. Masks were not required at the start, and full in-person learning took place. However, as the year progressed, case counts exploded, masks were again required, and the politics that surround this virus took an even firmer hold on Douglas County. This resulted in less people willing to sub, and less teachers currently teaching at schools. So how is this affecting schools here and across the country?

In November 2021, DPS announced that they were forced to send three of their schools to remote learning due to staffing troubles. Boulder Valley, Adams 12, and Adams 14 districts have also been forced to send students and staff to remote learning due to staffing problems, according to KDVR. Douglas County in late 2021 even sent out emails to parents asking them to substitute if they can. However, the more conservative districts, like ours, are refusing remote learning unless they deem it absolutely necessary. Douglas County also does not currently require vaccinations or masks for their staff, which could be the reason teachers are leaving. The political arguments that sprout from these decisions also could have a huge influence on the staff employment. These problems are really hitting the rural Colorado schools, who have had to deal with staff shortages for years. According to the director of the Colorado Center for Rural Education, Dr. Harvey Rude, "There are some schools that haven’t had math teachers for five years.” On top of the already depleted teaching staff here, COVID has forced even more teachers and staff away, adding onto the already detrimental situation affecting rural Colorado schools.

However, Colorado school districts have had it a little easier than others across the country. According to PBS, some schools are paying students to help pass out lunches, rehiring retired teachers temporarily, and asking bus drivers to help the janitorial staff. In June 2021, the National Education Association interviewed nearly 3,000 teachers and 32% of them said that the pandemic and the way it was handled prompted them to leave teaching sooner than they had originally planned.

COVID has also created a problem with teachers having to hire substitute teachers while they recover from the easily spread virus. Normally, this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but currently finding those substitutes is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. In California, many districts are subbing in retired former teachers to take the place of subs, something that would usually Bus drivers are among the positions needed to be filled,

have to be pre-approved by the image courtesy of EdWeek.

school board but is now allowed by

the California governor. However, the retired teachers are extremely limited in the money they can earn post retirement, proving how dire the situation is. Even school administrators are stepping in to teach classes to fill the gaps.

To say that the teacher and substitute under staffing is injurious would be an understatement. Schools that were already experiencing staffing troubles before the pandemic are now ten times worse off then they were. People who left the profession are now being called back, students are now working at their own school, bus drivers are now also janitors, and administrators are now kindergarten teachers. The situation does not look to be improving, and many districts here in Colorado and across the country are scrambling to help the supposedly “back to normal” school year be closer to normal.

Districts are desperate to hire substitutes and teachers,

image courtesy of Vox.