Three local school districts—Athens City School District, Alexander Local School District and Meigs Local School District—have been experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers.
The school districts have been noticing the pattern for at least three years. Although COVID-19 impacted the number of substitutes entering classrooms, a shortage of those qualified to substitute was apparent before the virus spread.
“There's been a sub shortage for probably the last three or four years. We were starting to recognize it prior to COVID, but COVID has made that situation much worse,” Will Hampton, the Alexander Local School District superintendent, said.
Alexander Local School District and Meigs Local School District have reduced their requirements for substitutes in order to hire more substitutes quicker and more frequently.
“Our current policy for sub-teaching staff has been reduced to a two-year associate degree or the equivalent with hours working towards a teaching degree,” Scot Gheen, the Meigs Local Schools superintendent, wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, the Alexander Local School District has lowered its substitute teacher requirements even further. Now, a potential substitute only needs a high school diploma, and an interview with the superintendent.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, or ODE, it is also still required that all substitutes undergo a background check.
The Alexander Local School District also has an agreement with Ohio University to pay student teachers a substitute’s hourly pay to help cover classrooms if no other substitutes are available, Hampton said.
“All of those little things add up. We still would love to have half a dozen or more people on our sub list, but for now, we're making do the best we can it's getting a little better, but we’ve still got a lot of room to go,” Hampton said.
Athens City School District, or ACSD, is also struggling to hire substitutes and paraprofessionals to substitute in special education classrooms, or function as aids in regular classrooms.
The state requirements for a paraprofessional have made the hiring process for paraprofessional substitutes even more difficult for ACSD, Denise Bowles, the ACSD administrative assistant to the superintendent, said.
ACSD is also looking for its substitutes to be fully qualified because they are now more likely to be hired into full-time positions in the future.
“We're now in the process where we are requiring them to (be highly qualified) because, more than likely, they may end up in a full-time position with us,” Bowles said. “If they do, it's nice having them highly qualified right away so it's not something they're struggling to get later.”
In general, the hiring process is the same for both paraprofessional substitutes and regular substitutes for ACSD, the only difference being the required paraprofessional license.
The current pay for substitutes at ACSD is $12 an hour, Bowles said.
With a license shortage in Meigs Local Schools, Scot Gheen said he is hopeful that the Ohio Department of Education, ODE, will make it easier for people to get certain licenses and certifications.
“My hope is legislation, ODE and the state board will be more creative moving forward for more creative and expansive licensure grade and subject areas and certification,” Gheen wrote in an email.
The Alexander Local School district has also raised its pay for substitute bus drivers in order to increase interest in all substitute positions within the district.
“We've just raised our sub bus driver pay, and we actually have a couple of candidates who've come in recently to apply, so that's encouraging,” Hampton said. “But again, we're competing with a variety of people, and the sub shortage is not isolated to just Southeast Ohio, it's pretty widespread.”