After the appearance of the Omicron variant and the recent spike of COVID-19, Carlmont and the Sequoia Union High School District have been facing unprecedented student and teacher absences throughout January.
This slew of long and short-term teacher absences has placed substitute teachers in high demand. The district, however, is having trouble meeting this demand.
Carlmont English and AP Capstone teacher Emily van Sebille shares her thoughts about the potential causes of the sub shortage.
“Subs, in my experience, are retired people who are working for extra income. Retired people are in one of the groups of people who are going to be most affected by COVID-19. And this is a high-stakes environment that you’re in — even with an N-95 mask, you’re exposed to 200 kids a day,” van Sebille said.
This shortage results in teachers using their prep-periods, a period without a class that is generally used to do work, to cover absent teachers. Van Sebille shared that the school sends the teachers an email every morning listing the classes that need coverage and asking for volunteers.
The school compensates teachers for their time, and the district is also taking measures to help this problem. Administrative Vice-Principal for the 9th and 11th grades, Gregg Patner, says the district currently has three plans in place.
“First, the district has increased pay for sub rates to $250 a day to encourage more people to become subs. Second, the district has reached out to our community, asking parents to see if they are interested in becoming a sub. Finally, the district has increased the pay to teachers who are covering classes for their colleagues,” Patner said.
Van Sebille noted that sub rates increased from under $200, and teacher coverage rates increased 20-30%.
History teacher Jarrod Harrison mentioned another solution used by the school.
“One of the common ideas I have heard about is grouping several classes in a larger venue with one substitute covering multiple classes,” Harrison said.
However, grouping multiple classes like this is not the preferred solution due to potential virus outbreaks. Before making this choice, the school will do its best to get teachers, substitutes, or parents to cover these classes.
Getting coverage is potentially more manageable now that California has lowered the requirements for becoming a substitute. Despite this solution, keeping all classes covered will continue to be difficult until the holiday wave of sicknesses passes.