Some Highland County schools have been feeling the impact of a recent shortage of substitute teachers and bus drivers.
Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the shortage caused his schools to shut down for a day in August of this year. “We took a calamity day due to staff attendance,” he said. “We had a lot of staff out, and with the shortage of subs, there was no way we could get all of the positions filled – it just wasn’t possible.”
While the Greenfield Exempted Village School District has not been forced to close schools because of the shortage, the district has been significantly impacted.
“In regard to substitute teachers and substitute aides, we are definitely having a struggle,” said the district’s superintendent, Quincey Gray. “What happens is, we have to find ways to provide internal coverage which affects student’s schedules and staff schedules and makes it difficult to provide the instruction the way that it’s meant to be provided.”
Fairfield Local School District employs a mechanic and a custodian who are both qualified to fill in and support the bus drivers in addition to another substitute. They were all needed during recent weeks to make up for various absences, including one due to COVID. “That’s just kind of life here; that’s how we operate,” said Tim Dettwiller, the district’s superintendent.
“All the other districts are dealing with the same thing — a higher number of absenteeism due to COVID and quarantine, but we’re in pretty good shape right now,” he said.
With only two schools in its district, Bright Local Schools has experienced fewer problems from the shortages than other districts. “We’ve got a few extra substitutes, and our bus driving positions are all filled, so really, we’re not experiencing the shortage as is portrayed,” said Bright Local Schools Superintendent Michael Bick.
Davis said he has seen a recent increase in the number of substitute teachers employed by his district. “It’s not up to where we are at full capacity, but we are seeing an increase,” he said.
Davis added that his district is still short-staffed on bus drivers. He said the certification requirements for bus drivers, in addition to COVID, could be a factor in the shortage.
“With the substitute teachers, I think COVID had more of an impact because many of the substitutes we’ve had in the district are retired teachers, and some of them have stayed away or been out of the building due to health-related issues of their own or the fear of getting COVID,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase in people coming back in the buildings and taking their own precautions, so that is good.”
According to Gray, the number of substitute teachers and bus drivers began to dwindle before COVID. “I think there are probably a few different factors, but it definitely became worse with COVID,” she said. “I am hopeful that as we see more sense of normalcy, things will improve.”
Gray said her district is advertising to encourage applicants to apply for the in-demand jobs. “We’re paying $150 a day for substitute teachers and for aides it’s $11.30 an hour, so it’s good money,” she said. She said interested applicants can contact Candy Black in the district superintendent’s office at 937-981-2151.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571