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COVID-19 leaves AISD short staffed on substitute teachers

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Lamar High School has their hands full as the Arlington Independent School District is short staffed on substitute teachers during the 2021-2022 school year. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the difficulty that comes with teaching challenging classes, the demand for substitute teachers is high, but the numbers of available subs are low.  While past substitutes are beginning to return due to more vaccines, schools still don’t know when to expect a solution to the ongoing sub shortage.  Schools statewide,  including Lamar, have had to tap into whatever available resources they have on campus to address the new substitute needs. That includes asking APs and other teachers to use their conference and planning periods to help out.   

“It’s almost sometimes more work to be sick… when you have to worry about, is there even going to be someone that can cover my class?” assistant principal Carolyn Longoria said. “It’s just really hard, there really is no easy answer.”

Lamar has started sending out an email each morning  to see if any teachers are available or willing to substitute for another class.  If there are not enough volunteers to fill all of the  class needs, a teacher is selected from a rotating list and asked (as it is considered mandatory) to step in.  While teachers do receive additional pay, the situation still causes stress.  The time taken from them is typically used to create lesson plans, used as conference periods, and time for classroom organization, Longria said.   

“I think it puts stress on everyone,” Longoria said. “For the teachers that are out sick, they feel bad.  They don’t want to take off because then somebody is going to have to cover for their class… That’s never healthy because we want to prioritize their mental and physical health.  We want them to feel comfortable when they need to stay home, but I know that’s just not happening at the moment.”

Additionally, students feel the affects from the lack of substitute teachers.  Students are forced to begin class late, assignments make little sense, and teachers and administrators  expect students to produce work equivalent to when there is a teacher in the classroom.  

“You can tell it’s stressful on everybody.  I personally feel the affects when I’m in the classroom trying to take notes or do my assignments,” junior Catherine Powers l said.  “It just seems like when a sub isn’t used to working at the school and managing its classes, the more chaos and commotion there is.” 

Oftentimes, when a teacher or substitute is found, they are not appropriately equipped to teach the specific subject.  

“It’s not the teacher being gone that bothers me the most, I really do want them to feel better.  I mean they are people, too,” junior Rori Greene said.  “It’s the fact that I’m still expected to perform well in the class.  The teacher is going to come back and expect the students to understand everything that was covered, even if they were gone for months at a time.”