Exchange: Arizona Teachers Replace With Not Enough Subscribers | Arizona News

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By YANA KUNICHOFF, Republic of Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) – In November, Melissa Girmscheid hit a wall and pulled out a calculator.

After weeks of covering lessons from other teachers during her prep period, Girmscheid, who teaches at West Point High School in the Tolleson Union School District, wanted to know how much time she had been allocated to planning and in preparation had been lost then away this year.

“Between August 3 (1st day of school) and November 7 (end of last pay period), I covered classes 24 times. There were 62 school days during this period. I wasted 39% of my planning / scoring / collaborating time because we can’t find replacements, ”she tweeted.

And she wasn’t alone, reports the Arizona Republic.

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Anecdotal reports from the front lines of Arizona school staff and the supply shortage show teachers, support staff and administrators statewide being removed from their regular duties to cover classrooms.

This school year, the stopping and starting of COVID-19 staff quarantines only worsened the staff crisis. In December, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote in a public letter that school districts should use federal relief money to increase salaries and hire more staff to address shortages.

Now, with growing uncertainty about the effect of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus on efforts to keep schools open, teachers are bracing for an increased need for replacements.

“It’s a constant difficulty,” Girmscheid said.

In his school of about 130 teachers, between 10 and 18 people go out each day, which means it takes 50 people to cover an average of five classes per day.

“It feels like there is no end in sight,” she said.

In many districts, teachers are paid extra to support another class. In Tempe Elementary School District, teachers are paid $ 31 an hour, in addition to their salaries, to cover class.

But the extra work is always difficult and brings them even closer to burnout, teachers say. Preparation time that had been allocated to essential work of tracking student progress and conferencing with colleagues, especially in the high-pressure environment to catch up with students after the pandemic disruption, is now being pushed back to evening work . In other cases, specialist staff such as math coaches or reading counselors become substitute art or gymnastics teachers.

For students, this means missing an education when a physics or math teacher takes over English or physical education classes. And when schools are in a particularly difficult situation, they often put two classes together, raising questions about the safety of COVID-19 and the tracing of future contacts if a student turns out to have been infected with the virus.

Julia Alperin, a fifth-grade teacher at Vista College Preparatory Middle School in Maryvale, seen on September 30, 2021, added an extra hour per day in English Language Arts and an extra half hour in math to help students catch up. academic delay. lost during the pandemic.

When third-grade teacher Beth Lewis left school for two weeks after contracting COVID-19, her classes were covered by a newly hired math coach.

Lewis was happy to have a constant educator for his students all the time, but it also meant that the math coach was not able to do learning interventions for the students.

“This is having an impact on the 200 children she could help each week,” said Lewis, who teaches in the Tempe Elementary district and is also the director of the organizing group Save Our Schools. “If you have to leave town because of a funeral, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a submarine.”

Schools can combine classrooms or divide one classroom into two, which raises a host of health and safety issues, Lewis said.

“If we have to combine two classes of 30 children, it’s a health problem,” she said. “The biggest problem is that COVID has created a logistical nightmare. “

Overall, this fuels teacher burnout, educators say.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Trina Berg, high school teacher and president of the Peoria Education Association. “All the work that we would normally need to do during prep time, we do on our own time. “

In a statement, the Peoria Unified School District said the governing board recently extended the class coverage salary.

“The teachers at Peoria Unified have done an outstanding job supporting our students by covering lessons when their peers are away,” the statement said. “It has not been easy for our schools to cope with the influx of staff absences, but our principals and teachers continue to do everything possible to put our students first. “

Arizona school districts, including Peoria and Tempe Elementary, have given teachers more money to cover classes for their colleagues. Other states have also weighed in on ideas that include certifying support staff for short-term classroom instruction, completely changing teaching requirements, or increasing replacement salaries.

Teachers who waste preparation time can have a long-term effect on students, Berg said.

“We are losing those times when we can do things that are absolutely necessary to have the most impact on a child’s education,” she said.

Girmscheid particularly regrets the time of collaboration which she had during her periods of preparation.

“It’s a pretty constant difficulty,” she said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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