Pandemic teacher shortages imperil in-person schooling (subscription)

By: | January 19, 2021

As spikes in virus infections and exposures have forced more educators to stay home, the teacher shortage — exacerbated by limited access to Covid-19 testing and contact tracing — is among the main reasons that schools and even entire districts have had to shut down in-person instruction, often for weeks on end.

“It’s just such a ripple effect,” said Laura Penman, the superintendent of Eminence Community Schools, a tiny district in rural Indiana. The district had to briefly close its only elementary school in November because a single infected educator had come into contact with multiple colleagues. There were not enough substitutes or staff members to fill in. “Teacher shortages can make a whole school go virtual,” she said.

Desperate to stanch staffing shortfalls, districts large and small are increasing pay for substitutes and even advertising for temporary positions on local billboards. Some states and districts have also suspended college course requirements, or permitted abbreviated online training, for emergency substitute teachers.

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