COVID-19 compounds school districts’ challenges to fill positions, hire subs

A look inside a classroom in the Haysville, Kan. school district
A look inside a classroom in the Haysville, Kan. school district(KWCH 12)
Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 8:14 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As schools face more issues with COVID-19 outbreaks creating staffing problems at the beginning of the school year, many districts are looking to fill positions and hire substitutes.

The Haysville school district is among those in the Wichita area looking to fill positions as more schools are reporting COVID clusters in their buildings.

“We’ve obviously had the challenges that every school district is facing in regards to COVID,” Haysville Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Hersh said.

Challenges include trying to maintain social distancing in schools and keeping up with contact tracing. Last week, Hersh said Haysville schools had 13 positive cases, mostly in students. This resulted in 170 people being considered close contacts.

“Our goal is to keep school open so that our students can continue to be educated, but to do that, we have to have staff,” Hersh said.

With people out sick, it’s crucial for districts to have available subs and other staff to fill in. This year, the Haysville school district says it was able to hire what it calls “COVID support staff,” bringing in 16 permanent subs to move between buildings when needed to fill in.

“Those are the people that when something comes open, we want to fill with those individuals first,” Hersh said. “It also allows us to have a handful of days when we are short to pull them from one building and put them in another building. And that’s been a huge success.”

Currently, the Haysville school district has multiple open positions it’s trying to fill, from social workers to class paraprofessionals. It says hiring subs was a challenge even before the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, many of the people we have as a substitute teacher, many of them are retired teachers. They are at a higher risk of getting the virus and other illnesses,” Hersh said.

The Haysville school district encourages anyone thinking about working with kids to look into being a substitute teacher.

“Reach out to those school districts and we will guide you through it,” Hersh said.

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