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Any sub in a storm

States change requirements to avoid more COVID-19 closures


A substitute teacher at Greenfield Intermediate School in Greenfield, Ind. Associated Press/Photo by Michael Conroy, file

Any sub in a storm

School districts across the country are lowering standards for substitutes to get through a teacher staffing crisis made worse by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“It’s worse than our worst time before,” said Carna Yipé, the president of the Wichita Substitute Teachers Association in Wichita, Kan. She has substitute taught for 10 years.

In Kansas, the State Board of Education temporarily removed college credit requirements for substitute teachers last week, effectively paving the way for recent high school graduates to return to classrooms as subs. Neighboring state Missouri lowered substitute requirements in August 2020 but voted a year later to make the changes permanent. Missouri and Kansas both have limits on the amount of time a school can rely on virtual education, and Missouri Board of Education officials rejected a request to increase that limit last week. At least one St. Louis elementary school has already passed its virtual education allotment.

Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a temporary executive order to increase the allowed hours a substitute teacher can work and permit schools to temporarily hire recently retired teachers.

Data tracker Burbio reported 6,273 U.S. schools had to close or use virtual learning for at least one day the week of Jan. 10, including the nearly 100 schools in the Minneapolis school district. Schools in several states have asked parents to fill in for teachers, and in North Carolina, state employees can spend their paid community service hours as substitute teachers in local schools, Gov. Roy Cooper said last week.

Teachers and substitute teachers are not the only school personnel affected by rising COVID-19 infection rates. Some districts have had to temporarily cancel busing due to the high number of absences among bus drivers. A New York school nurse told her school board at a meeting that school nurses often have to cover multiple schools or leave students with administrators.


Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.

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