Valley schools continue to work through substitute teacher shortages
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - While the first half of the school year is coming to an end, many schools around the Shenandoah Valley remain short-staffed, especially when it comes to substitute teachers.
Recruiting has shown to be difficult for many industries right now, and K-12 schools are no different, but local divisions are doing what they can to offer competitive wages and even recruit college students to fill these openings.
“What we’ve done recently is we’ve reached out to James Madison University and connected with their education department and started recruiting their students,” Harrisonburg City Public Schools Director of HR Shawn Printz said. “Over the last few months, it’s helped a tremendous amount.”
That has helped HCPS hire between 30 and 40 JMU students as substitute teachers. Printz said HCPS also plans to work with Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College to recruit more students.
“We still could at least double that right this minute. We could use another 40 to 50 more,” Printz said.
He said HCPS still needs more substitutes because college students often do not have the flexibility to cover as much as the schools need, so six permanent substitutes were hired, too. There is one at each elementary school and one at the Elon Rhodes Early Learning Center, which Printz said has been helpful.
“It’s a godsend to have someone that embedded in the schools that they can count on every day,” Printz said. “It provides an opportunity where that person knows the school and school climate, knows the students and teachers. They know what’s going on instead of having to move from one school to the next.”
To remain competitive with other divisions, HCPS raised its pay for substitutes in December, which Printz said is about $20 extra every day.
Page County Public Schools also increased its pay for substitutes back in January 2021 and will be announcing another increase next month. Superintendent Dr. Antonia Fox stressed the division’s need for these teachers at the school board’s last meeting.
“Right now, our staff are stretched thin. They’re having to cover each other’s classes when staff are out, whether they are from sickness, quarantines, or just appointments, they are being absolutely stretched thin,” Dr. Fox said on Dec. 9.
Fox tells WHSV that pre-COVID, PCPS has about 70 substitutes a year who were able to provide support, but this year has 44 that can be accessed on a regular basis. She said the need is in all areas, but especially for substitute teachers at all grade levels.
Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl tells WHSV that Rockingham County Public Schools is always in need of additional staff. For the last few months, central office staff has served as substitutes once every week.
Scheikl said while the fill rate has improved, there is still a continued need in Rockingham County, as well.
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