NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — Substitute teachers play an important role, covering teachers who are out sick or on vacation. However some area school districts tell us getting subs in the classroom is becoming a more difficult task.
During the pandemic, the need for substitute teachers has increased especially to cover longer periods of time like when a teacher has to quarantine. ESS, a education staffing agency says the number of subs available has dropped.
The agency provides substitute teachers for schools across the state including the Rogers and Bentonville school districts. Both districts say it is increasingly more difficult to get coverage and it’s gotten worse during the pandemic.
ESS, Regional VP of Operations, Tammy Winn says there are challenges hiring and retaining subs. The agency lost several workers last year when schools shut down, and subs were out of work. Some just don’t feel comfortable working in classrooms right now.
“If our subs are a little bit older they chose not to get out during the pandemic.. and then we have some subs who care for elderly parents or grandparents so they chose not to get out,” said Winn.
She adds many subs also have kids and quarantines also impact their availability to work. Winn says there is also a bigger need for long-term substitute positions needed to cover a shortage of teachers some schools are facing.
The agency is increasing its recruitment efforts but Winn says the pandemic has taken a toll on staffing.
Springdale Public Schools however trains and hires its own substitute teachers. Coordinator of Academic & Administrative Support, Bobby Cole says he oversees about 400 staffers.
He says some days are more challenging to staff like near the holidays and day of call-outs but overall Cole says they offer many incentives to retain their staff.
“We get a lot of substitutes in, but we have opportunities for those substitute teachers to take permanent jobs…. As instructional facilitators, as aids, as certified teachers in the areas that they need,” said Cole.
The district reimburses the background check fee after the sub works a certain period of time. They’ve also dropped the age minimum from 21 years old to 18 years old to open up the job pool.
Now subs do follow the safety guidelines of the school where they are placed.Cole says one change this year is they are not restricting subs to one building which also gives them more flexibility when staffing.