Fewer substitute teachers causing major problems for Minot-area school districts

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D. – Substitute teachers have been in short supply in many school districts across North Dakota for years now, but this year, the shortage has become more alarming.

Even teachers have sick days, but when there are no substitute teachers to fill in, other teachers or staff may have to cover the absent teacher’s classroom.

“It’s a knot in your stomach because you feel so bad that you are taking more from your co-workers because you know already how much they give,” said Else-Marie Westman, a physical education teacher in North Dakota.

Retired teachers, who often serve as substitutes, are now avoiding the classroom completely, largely due to the pandemic, making the small sub pool even smaller.

“I have a really good sub pool right now, but the problem is, they don’t just sub here, they sub in other schools too so that’s the tough part is getting somebody who hasn’t already been called for that day,” said Debbie Hansen, Surrey’s Pre-K through 12th grade principal.

And with the heightened awareness of health brought on by the pandemic, there are more absences.

“What I am noticing more is more teachers taking days off because we don’t want them to come if they’re sick and you know teachers are great about coming in if they are sick and powering through, but with COVID in the background, you just don’t want that,” said Hansen.

More often than not, other school staff and teachers give up their prep period or lunch to cover a classroom, leaving some feeling guilty.

“It’s a real selfless thing to do. My district compensates so like if you cover, you’re paid what the substitute would be paid for that period, I know not every district is like that either, but it creates a lot of guilt,” said Westman.

Impacting both large and small districts with no end in sight.

“We’ve looked at different options. We encourage people to sub. There are provisions out for somebody, for example, a college student who finishes in December, we’ll pick up more subs as they are waiting to find employment as a teacher in the fall,” said Mark Vollmer, superintendent of Minot Public Schools.

And as we get into flu and cold season, the need for subs grows greater, every day.

According to Indeed.com, the average North Dakota sub can make up to $172 a day.

The three main requirements for getting a substitute teaching license are a minimum of 48 hours of college coursework, a successful background check, and an online application.

For more details, follow this link.

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