Substitute teachers are in short supply this year, and for St. Paul Education they are seeing a 20 per cent decrease in subs, so they are having to turn to educational assistants (EA) to fill in the gaps.
The lack of substitute teachers has been chalked up to COVID-19 regulations, which forces teachers to self-isolate whenever they have any of the typical symptoms. Due to teachers having to self-isolate this year when they do have symptoms, St. Paul Education is experiencing a higher need for substitutes.
“If I compared this September to last September, we have had a 30 per cent increase in the need for subs,” said Glen Brodziak, St. Paul Education superintendent.
“With the certain types of regulations around with having to isolate, we respect those rules and we are fully in agreement with them for the safety of everyone.
“Throughout the first month of school, we have had a few cases where there have not been enough subs.”
Northern Lights Public School (NLPS) has also been struggling with having less substitute teachers because some don’t want to work during a pandemic. This means they are having to turn to EA’s or what they call classroom supervisors for back up.
“It’s harder to find subs because we need more of them right now, and we do have some subs that would have subbed for us before, but due to their own personal concerns they aren’t subbing this year because of COVID-19,” said Nicole Garner, Communications Officer for NLPS.
“So if we can’t find a substitute teacher, we will call someone on our list of classroom supervisors, who will come and supervise for the day and work off of a plan that the teacher provides.”
Other challenges that NLPS is facing involves student absences for those showing symptoms.
The school board is having to make arrangements like online learning options, and sending lesson plans to students that can’t be in the classroom so that they don’t fall behind.
“With student absences, they’re not home for a couple of days with a cold, they could be out for 10 days or even longer. So we want to ensure there is continuity of learning for students, and that there is as little disruption to learning for students as possible,” said Garner.
Schools not only have a shortage in substitute teachers but also with bus drivers as well. St. Paul Education has had to make cancellations because there were not enough bus drivers available.
“We have had three instances where buses couldn’t run because bus drivers were having symptoms, and we only have so many certified bus drivers,” said Brodziak.
“We have had to cancel bus routes because of COVID-19, so that’s just another example where we have had a shortage of people because of people having to isolate.”
Although the 2020/2021 school year has proven to be difficult, Brodziak chooses to look optimistically on the year ahead and take it one step at a time.
“I still have every confidence in the world going into this year, and we are trying to proceed as normally as possible,” said Brodziak.
“We are still getting work and assignments and learning out to our students and our families, so we are trying to make the best of a pretty tough situation.”