One way to ease the substitute teacher shortage with staff you already have

Fayette County Public Schools has trained 23 drivers so far to take over the classrooms as needed.
By: | March 3, 2022
David Aven, seen here teaching a a Spanish class at Whitewater High School, is one of two dozen bus drivers who are now doubling as substitutes in Georgia's Fayette County Public Schools.David Aven, seen here teaching a a Spanish class at Whitewater High School, is one of two dozen bus drivers who are now doubling as substitutes in Georgia's Fayette County Public Schools.

Most schools have been grappling with teachers shortages, but not all have come up with as creative a solution as Fayette County Public Schools in Georgia.

The lightbulb went on in human resource director Erin Roberson’s head when she overheard the wife of a district bus driver saying her husband had long aspired to become a substitute teacher. “I started to wonder if there were other bus drivers who might be interested in substitute teaching,” Roberson says. “It would provide additional income for our interested drivers, and it would help our schools by relieving teachers from covering other classes during their planning times.”

It also gives drivers an additional job between their morning and afternoon routes by scheduling them to cover unfilled substitute jobs for the middle portion of the day. The district hopes to fill 98% of its substitute needs. Its fill rate for the first semester was 81%, Roberson says.

It turned out many drivers had relevant experience working with children, as Sunday school and preschool teachers, and club and school volunteers. The district has trained 23 drivers so far to fill in as substitutes in any of its schools.

And since the subbing occurs between the bus schedules, the program has not disrupted school transportation, says Steve Greene, the district’s director of transportation. “If anything, it has had a positive impact on morale for those drivers,” he says. “They are not only getting a little more compensation, but they are gaining a sense of community. They know that they are filling a need and having a positive impact on the system and the students they serve.”

Bus driver Liz Campbell subs in a 5th grade classroom at Sara Harp Minter Elementary in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Bus driver Liz Campbell subs in a 5th grade classroom at Sara Harp Minter Elementary in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Subbing also gives drives a better understanding of what the students go through each day before they load the buses in the afternoon. “Substitute teaching is not for everyone—just as some teachers would not want to drive a bus,” Greene says. “However, those that came to the training seem excited about it and it allows them to see the students in a whole new light.”

Fayette County Public Schools has also mounted an advertising campaign via social media, community resources, and school communications, and no longers that short-term substitues ahve a college degree. It is also increasing pay for substitutes and training administrators and staff in how to retain them.


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