Schools struggle to keep in-person classes amid teacher, substitute shortage amid pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the Coronavirus spreads, more teachers and substitute teachers are either catching the virus themselves, having a high risk exposure or needing to care for a child who’s been exposed. This lack of healthy educators is forcing some schools to move temporarily move students to online learning.

“Kids need to be in school, it’s clear, Dr. Scott Robison, Superintendent of Zionsville Community Schools, said. “You can pick up any publication and you’ll see that social and emotional issues for folks that have this discontinuity, not to mention obviously the biggest reason is continuity of learning is hugely important. They don’t get those days back of that social interaction in the classroom certainly, but the interaction with a teacher who is helping them grow every day. These are precious days and we can ill afford to lose them for our youth.”

Students in grades preK through 4th grade at Zionsville Community Schools are still attending in-person classes. The 5th through 12th graders are on a hybrid schedule. Tuesday, Robison was subbing for a teacher who was out.

“The teacher I served for today, she taught all day,” Robison said. “I mean she’s working really, really hard and she had beautiful lessons that she supplied via Zoom. A lot of us pitched in to make it work.”

In a normal year, school districts tell us they have trouble finding substitute teachers. But, the pandemic has made that issue worse. Donna Petraits, Executive Director for the Indiana School Public Relations Association said that is likely due in part to the age of those who sub.

“Typically the substitute teachers that you get are people who work part-time, just want something to do,” Petraits explained. “But more often than not, they’re retired people or semi-retired people which of course then immediately puts them in the high-risk category.”

School districts would love to have help from substitute teachers. If you would like to apply for your permit, please visit www.doe.in.gov/.

Danville Community Schools said many of their substitutes are retired teachers who do not feel comfortable working in the pandemic. They also have subs and teachers who are quarantined or gotten ill. They are looking forward to the help from college students they lined up to sub during their winter break.

Muncie Community Schools said they host monthly trainings for people interested in subbing. They average 5 to 10 people participating each month. You can visit muncie.k12.in.us for more information.

Lebanon Community Schools moved their high school students to 100% virtual learning through at least Thanksgiving Break, not because of positive cases but because there is not enough staff to cover the classrooms.

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