SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- School districts across San Diego County are experiencing a substitute teacher shortage caused by the pandemic.
Return to in-person teaching is not as simple as pre-COVID-19 teaching.
"It's really difficult," San Diego Education Association [Union] president Kisha Borden said.
Borden said the San Diego Unified School district is facing a critical substitute teacher shortage. Before COVID, there were about 1,500 names on the substitute teachers list. But during last school year, the need for substitute teachers dipped significantly.
"If you're only out a day, give your students asynchronous work. Maybe check-in if you are able, but there wasn't a need to call in a substitute teacher for the full day," Borden explained the protocol.
Borden said many subs were taken off that list, or for health reasons, did not wish to return. But with quarantining protocols, substitute teachers are needed more than ever. The district foresaw this. So at the end of August, it signed an agreement with the union to create a "Resident Visiting Teacher" position at every school: essentially, a sub who is always on standby.
"They would report to that school every day for the remainder of the year to cover any unexpected absences," Borden explained.
Borden said they modeled the system to mirror Chula Vista Elementary School District and raised the pay to $285/day, compared to a regular sub's $170/day rate. But Borden said that is still not enough to cover all the absences. She said there have been cases where principals supervise classes, or students are split up and added to other classrooms, which are both non-ideal situations.
"It is our hope that they are working to hire as many people as possible to get through the applications as quickly as possible," Borden said.
The San Diego Unified School District sent ABC10News a statement in response to this story:
"We continue to recruit substitute teachers, as well as teachers in hard-to-staff subjects, such as special education. We have offered hiring bonuses and other incentives to continue attracting the best teachers. So far the substitute shortage has not impacted operations, but with the fall flu season ahead and the continued presence of Covid-19 in our community, we are not taking any chances. That is why, in addition to recruiting, we are doing everything possible to focus on the health and wellness of our staff and community. The vaccine mandate passed last week was an important step in this regard. We have also invested heavily in safety protections at every school. These measures appear to be working well and data from other states seems to show the effectiveness of vaccine mandates. However, we are not taking anything for granted, and the health and safety of our school communities continues to be our highest priority. Despite these very challenging conditions, we will continue to maintain our commitment to small class sizes and the right of every student to learn from an outstanding educator."