Friday, November 13, 2020

Pottstown Schools Eye Hiring Permanent Substitutes to Fill Gaps Due to Coronavirus-Driven Shortage

Coronavirus has had an impact on so many aspects of our lives, some of them unanticipated.

That's true in public education as well, as Pottstown Schools officials have found over the months.

First, there was sudden closing of schools in March with many families not have the computer equipment or Internet connections to allow students to continue their education.

Then, like many district, it wrestled with whether to allow athletics to continue and when, or if, to re-open to allow some return to classes, even part-time.

Another curve ball is the shortage of substitutes.

Before any of us ever heard the word "coronavirus," Pennsylvania was suffering from a shortage of teachers. And the pandemic has made many of the teachers who are working, reluctant to increase their risk of exposure by teaching in the classroom.

Boyertown school officials learned that in August when plans for starting the school year with a partial in-class hybrid model were scotched because the district could not find enough teachers willing to come in.

Now imagine being a substitute teacher, where you could be in a different room every day, either suffering multiple exposures, or being a super-spreader yourself. 

As far back as 2015, a shortage of substitute teachers was seen as a growing problem in Pennsylvania.

COVID-19 grew that shortage on steroids.

And even though Pottstown Schools have remained virtual since March, teachers still get sick and substitutes are still needed.

The problem, in a worker demand market, is its tough to secure them when you pay less per day than other, wealthier districts. Add to that the fact that many substitutes have their own children learning at home, and the shortage becomes even more acute.

That's why Deena Cellini, wants the school board to authorize hiring some on a permanent basis. She made her case to the school board's personnel committee on Nov. 9.

 What she is asking is the authorize the hiring of some "long-term subs," usually hired only when a teacher will be out for an extended period on maternity or family leave to take over for a longer period.

"As more districts go back into class, there are going to be more leaves and that is going to seriously drain the sub pool," Cellini told the committee members.

Although the school board has already decided against anyone returning to in-person education before January, Cellini wants to plan ahead. 

"We'll want to be isolating people to the same group," to reduce risk and aid contact tracing, she said. "We can't keep checkerboarding people around."

Cellini said she and Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez are hoping to put as many as 35 into a pool of available subs "but honestly, we're not sure if we could even get that many," she said.

The estimated cost is about $39,000 a year per substitute and the committee has recommended the move to the full board, which will vote on the matter at its next meeting on Nov. 19, when the board is expected to vote on whether to implement a hybrid in-person program and when.

No comments:

Post a Comment