Throughout Wyoming, school districts threaten to sink under the pressure of a growing substitute teacher shortage due to COVID-19. Campbell County, however, is managing to stay afloat, officials say.
“I thought it was going to be very bad, but we’re managing well enough,” Larry Reznicek, Campbell County School District (CCSD) Human Resources Director, said Monday.
This comes less than a week after Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon declared the situation “unsustainable” as teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals reportedly undertake double duty to account for staff absences due to COVID-19.
The situation warranted the establishment of a joint venture between the governor’s office, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and the University of Wyoming. Last week, college students were implored in a letter from the governor’s office to step up and become substitute teachers over their Christmas break, which would “help make it possible for K-12 schools to keep operating and allowing Wyoming’s young people to continue learning in-person and helping families across the state.”
Despite the doom and gloom, however, supplementing substitute teacher ranks with qualified college students isn’t necessarily because of a shortage caused by COVID-19, Reznicek said.
“That’s something we have always done,” he said, adding that the district is often looking to fulfill a substitute shortage every year.
When that happens, the district generally starts their search within a pool of qualified applicants with a teaching degree that were not hired on as permanent faculty.
These newly hired substitutes then have the advantage of getting to know the district, faculty, and students, he noted.
The downside, however, is the subs do not receive school district benefits. Substitute shortages further occur after those substitutes move on to fulfill other roles in the district, roles that would provide them benefits or something else positive, according to Reznicek, then the substitute teacher deficiency wheel spins all over again.
Right now, there are around 20 college students who satisfy the CCSD’s 60 credit-hour requirement to obtain a substitute teaching permit. Those individuals will undergo criminal background checks, 32 hours of instruction, and 30 hours of observation before being declared officially ready to begin their substitute teaching duties.