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LPS hires permanent substitute teachers at some schools, addressing sub shortage

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 5:49 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Courtney Lee walks into Huntington Elementary school every day not knowing which classroom she’ll be in or which students she’ll teach, but knowing she will without a doubt make a difference.

“When I go into a classroom they know my face, or at least my mask; they know I’m not a total stranger just coming in to sub for the first time,” Lee said.

Lee is one of Lincoln Public School’s Associate Teachers. Associate Teachers are full-time substitute teachers dedicated to a specific building that’s seen more absences than others.

The new position is one of four strategies the district is implementing to address the shortage of substitute teachers.

“We have quite a few substitute teachers hired on, the number is comparable to previous years but a lot of them aren’t accepting jobs right now,” Eric Weber, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources for LPS said.

This has lead to more and more classrooms going a day without a teacher. In the fall of 2020, the average rate of classrooms who didn’t have a substitute teacher rose to 23 percent. The average rate for that time of year is 10 percent.

When a classroom goes without a substitute, other teachers at the school are asked to fill in on what should be their planning periods.

“It puts pressure on them in normal times but particularly during a pandemic where you have hybrid learning, having to cover because of a lack of subs is even more challenging,” Weber said.

To address this, the district has four strategies, including hiring Associate Teachers. Weber said they’ve started giving bonuses for substitute teachers who fill in for more than 15 days a month. They’ve added technology training for substitute teachers so they’re better equipped to work in hybrid classrooms. The district has also ramped up their recruitment of local substitute teachers who don’t have teaching certificates but have worked at least 60 hours toward a bachelor degree.

In September, the district had 97 local subs. As of December, 259 had been hired.

All of these measures have allowed for the rate of unfilled classes to drop below 10 percent as of last week, Weber said.

Lee said she can feel the relief at Huntington Elementary.

“Having that one person when someone gets sick in the middle of the day, you don’t have to rush around to find someone, they can just say ‘Courtney can you jump in here,” Lee said. “That’s what I’m here for. “Having this position within a school lessens one brick of pressure off the administration.”

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