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Schools to Parents: Please Sub as Teachers

Districts are strapped amid omicron surge
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2022 4:35 PM CST
Parents Asked to Fill In for Teachers Amid Omicron
Special education teacher Jennifer Graves, at Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School, in New Haven, Conn., borrowed paraprofessionals from other classrooms when her classroom aide didn't show up for work and no substitutes were available.   (Courtesy Jennifer Graves via AP)

(Newser) – School districts are urging parents to help out in classrooms as the omicron variant forces some educators to stay home. "We can't keep up, there is no labor pool," Don Austin, superintendent of California's Palo Alto Unified School District, says in a video shared Sunday, urging parents to volunteer for classroom support and custodial work amid a surge in cases, per ABC News. "No amount of money can solve this issue. We need your help." Meanwhile, the Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Kyle, Texas, has asked parents to consider becoming substitute teachers. The district put out a request for "certified and eligible non-certified" teachers last week, adding it would waive a college training requirement.

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Substitute teaching requirements have been relaxed in numerous states, per Insider, though successful applicants still need to pass a criminal background check. "We believe that having someone in class, even if we temporarily forgo the college hours requirement, is better than the alternative of having to close schools," Hays CISD said, per KTBC. It said it has 500 substitute teachers in a typical school year but "started this year with only about 100 subs because of delta." The district said it increased that number to 300 but saw "greatly increased" demand with the spread of omicron, accompanied by "increased teacher absences." It described 292 requests for substitutes on Tuesday alone.

"For those sub needs that are unfilled, we have campus staff and central office staff that are helping." Some teachers are filling in during what would normally be off-duty periods, the district added, stressing the need for teachers or anyone else who is sick, has tested positive for COVID-19, or had close contact with someone who is positive, to stay home. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra similarly put out a call for parents to fill in as substitute teachers back in October, amid "a severe shortage of workers." More recently, Michigan passed a law allowing cafeteria staff and bus drivers to fill in for teachers, while Pennsylvania passed legislation allowing eligible college students to teach, per Insider. (Cases may be peaking on the East Coast.)

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