Michigan schools expect teacher absences to increase

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DETROIT (AP) — Michigan schools already face a lack of substitute teachers, but officials expect a greater need for them amid the pandemic.

In preparing for fall instruction, educators must focus on ramping up the number of available subs, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Randy Liepa, superintendent of the Wayne County Regional Educational Services Agency, said that would be a challenging task.

“Remember, schools are vying for the same substitute teachers. If there is a need for additional substitute teachers, there are only so many that are out there,” Liepa said.

Nicola Soares, president of Kelly Education, the school staffing division of Troy-based Kelly Services, said there will not be enough teachers to reopen schools.

Soares said that her company filled almost 4 million assignments last year across 41 states. About 20% of those subs worked at schools that were not able to find a full-time teacher. Many of those positions must be filled again this year as well as spots left vacant by teachers who are ill, quarantined, immune-compromised or caring for a loved one at home who is at high risk of infection, Soares added.

“I like to think that our substitute teachers, or rather any employees working within our school buildings, are going to be the next line of essential workers,” Soares said.

On average, subs are paid $95 a day, Soares said. But prices depend on location. Some places pay $65 and others $175.

Clark Galloway runs Grand Rapids-based EduStaff, which provides substitute teachers to almost 500 school districts in Michigan. His firm plans to increase training on things like personal protective equipment and social distancing.

“We are going to do everything we can to train subs on the basic needs of understanding of how to handle an environment,” Galloway said.

Mya Fullmer, who has subbed for the past two years, said she believes substitute teachers are “well-suited” for the pandemic.

“We start most workdays walking into a room full of unknowns: unknown lesson plan, unknown kids, unknown class behaviors. COVID-19 is just another unknown, but on a much larger scale,” Fullmer said.

Soares expects it to be hard filling positions, but she noted that people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic could be potential candidates.

“First and foremost, your country needs you,” Soares said. “I would also say this is probably the best, the most noble profession that anybody can do.”

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