Low salaries, the risk of COVID-19, obstacles to licensing, and the difficulty of substitute teaching all mean fewer and fewer people are applying for substitute positions. Unfortunately, schools are more in need of replacements than ever to cover teacher absences linked to COVID-19.
Devon Brewer, a science professor at the Academy of Arts and Humanities (AHA) and Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), said the COVID-19 pandemic adds to other factors and is at the root of the current shortage of substitute teachers.
“With [COVID-19], a pandemic and 3,200 children in one place, I don’t think that’s such a desirable job, âBrewer said. âReplacement is hard work; it’s confusing, it’s a big place, there’s a lot going on in high school.
Hasmig Minassian, a ninth grade universal (U9) professor of ethnic studies, said the low salary of substitutes also contributes to the shortage of substitutes. While Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has increased the starting rate for substitute teaching from $ 184 per day to $ 225 per day, Minassian said the pay is not comparable to other jobs available.
The reasons for teacher absences vary. Some are due to close contact with someone positive for COVID-19; others have young children who have or have been exposed to COVID-19. Teachers can also stay at home when they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 themselves.
Deputy director Tonia Coleman told the Jacket that the number of teacher absences linked to COVID-19 is classified.
Stress-related illnesses are also keeping teachers home in greater numbers.
âI think because the work environment is a lot more stressful, people are going to have more physical ailments that keep them at home,â Minassian said. âI know during the first two weeks of school there are teachers at home with migraines and other stress injuries which I guess are directly related to the stress of the job,â Minassian said.
To be eligible to work in BUSD, replacements must request a 30-day sub-ID through the state of California, but COVID-19 has delayed the process. The replacements are slowly graduating and are now eligible to work in BUSD, but at the start of the year there were few.
Teachers are paid by the hour to replace teachers, which is why many teachers do so during their preparation periods.
Minassian said she felt a moral obligation to try to redress the instability caused by the lack of teachers and substitutes.
“[COVID-19] happens to all of us, âsaid Minassian. “If there is anything I can do to relieve a little of this stress for this teacher who must be absent or for this student who has a third replacement for the day, or for this administrator who is looking for another person to be able to do so? complete a class, I wish I could help, âMinassian said.
However, teachers feel the consequences of taking the place of their colleagues during their preparation periods, which are normally used for teaching preparation and lesson planning.
According to Minassian, having replacement teachers is not sustainable. âTeachers are going to be tired and exhausted, and administrators are going to continue to have their frustrations. We need reinforcements soon. Right now, most of us who sign up are treating it as an emergency operation, not something we can do day in and day out for 180 days, âMinassian said.
Coleman said that as of September 13, BHS has two full-time, site-specific subscriptions to support classes that aren’t covered.
âRaising wages and creating an easier onboarding process for those eligible for outsourcingâ are the most effective steps that can be taken, Coleman said.
Despite the stress of the shortage of substitutes, Brewer said being back to school in person is rewarding.
âI really love being back to school and I love it a lot more than Zoom School,â Brewer said. âWhile the shortage of substitute teachers is certainly a challenge, it doesn’t give me the impression that everything would be easier if we made the Zoom School. It is a challenge to be taken up.