Schools struggle to find enough substitute teachers during surge

NewsNation PRIME

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The substitute teacher shortage has flown under the radar for many, but the impact it’s having on our students and schools will be felt for years to come.

Meramec Elementary School principal Patrick Fisher said it’s been tough to fill in the gaps due to the latest omicron surge.

“Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I do is check our sub portal or the information website to see kind of who may be out that day,” he said during his appearance on NewsNation Prime. “We are seeing an unprecedented amount of both teachers and students out right now. I am fortunate that we have a lot of human resources in my building, but every morning it is a struggle.”

He called the shortage an “all hands on deck” situation, but he says his district has been able to manage so far.

“We’ve got people who aren’t normally substituting that are having to do that. And maybe its administrators throughout the district, it is counselors, it’s (really) everybody all hands on deck all the time right now.”

A number of schools across the country are facing severe teachers shortages due to the pandemic. Some schools have asked parents or other school staffers to help out with teaching in the classroom. Fisher described how his school district is using a sort of “balancing act” to keep up with all the changes.

“I know, essentially, my assistant principal today was in a classroom subbing,” he said. “I know some of our administrators throughout the district have also been a lot of times in classroom subbing and I’ve been able to kind of, you know, use some of my staff in some creative ways to make sure that I’m available to cover multiple holes. But yeah, it’s been quite interesting.”

Recently, the school got a surprise MLB star to ‘substitute’ a third-grade P.E. class. Harrison Bader, center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, stopped by the elementary school last Friday. Bader took the time to play dodgeball while he was there.

Fisher said it’s finding those small reasons, along with keeping in mind the importance of the kids’ education that makes it teaching worthwhile.

“It’s finding those small reasons to take a deep breath and relax and have fun and just every once in a while… remembering that we’ve got those kids with us and it’s really the most valuable resource that anybody has in our communities and that’s what we’re there for.”

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