Local school districts face teacher shortage

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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FOX VALLEY, Wis. (WBAY) -4K through second graders will learn virtually until next week in Bonduel, while students in 3rd grade through 12th grade will return to the classroom on Tuesday. All but one kindergarten class, that is quarantining, in the Menominee Area Public School District in Michigan will also be back in school on Tuesday.

Both districts had to cancel in-person classes today because they didn’t have enough staff after several teachers were forced to quarantine because of the coronavirus. These districts aren’t the first and won’t be the last to face this problem -- especially during a pandemic.

Merrill Middle School and Oshkosh North High School delayed the start of the school year after they had several staff members come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. That’s exactly what happened in Bonduel and Menominee as both districts kept students home today because they were short on staff.

“We knew that we were going to have a problem covering some classes,” says Bonduel superintended Joe Dawidziak.

Menominee superintendent, John Mans adds, “We didn’t have subs in place for them on Monday and really didn’t have subs available Monday.”

Even before the pandemic, districts were having a hard time filling teaching positions. Dawidziak says, “There was a shortage of teachers prior to all of this and so that’s just teachers generally, not substitute teachers. So there certainly is going to be, I think, a shortage of substitute teachers going forward.”

Especially since substitute teachers are often retired teachers, people who find themselves more at-risk during the pandemic.

According to John Mans, “We’re really worried about some of them now, with this outbreak, with them getting nervous and getting scared off and saying hey I’m out. But in the same way, we understand it. I mean, I have to be careful, everyone has to be careful.”

While districts are working on creative ways, including monetary incentives, to attract more substitute teachers, requirements to sub aren’t as strict as they used to be.

Dawidziak says, “There was a little bit more latitude, I guess, prior to the pandemic because of the issue with the shortage of both teachers and substitute teachers so certainly the pandemic I think has probably accelerated that a little bit.”

And now that both districts have gone through this issue once, they are working to avoid finding themselves in the same position again - while cautioning families that during this unprecedented times, it might just be unavoidable.

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