Written by Alex Parikh-Briggs
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, several industries are facing worker shortages throughout the nation. In early December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 11 million job openings in the US; people simply aren’t filling jobs for a variety of different reasons.
The District and, consequently, M-A face the same problem: a shortage of substitute teachers. Right now, the District is down 50 subs district-wide. According to Mrs. Rigotti, last year, “there were 150, and this year there are only about 100.”
With students and teachers returning from winter break, the sub issue has gained even more of a spotlight. On January 4th, M-A’s first day back on campus, roughly one-fifth of teachers at M-A were absent from campus. With such few subs, the effects of these absences have only worsened.
This has led to many complications. When a sub isn’t available for a class, there are several alternatives. However, these solutions nearly always create another problem in the process. Often, teachers have to cover and either sub for another teacher or take on multiple classes at a time. For example, while Economics and Government teacher Ellen Jacobson hasn’t personally had to fill in for another teacher, she knows that the process has made it more difficult for her colleagues to “grade and plan lessons for the next day.” She also said that “teachers aren’t goofing off during prep periods” and that the time is valuable in order to plan for later classes.
If there aren’t any teachers who are willing and available to sub during the period, students are forced to go into the PAC Cafe, Library, or even the PAC. This happens because public schools in California, like M-A, have to satisfy a minimum requirement for adult supervision. Edith Salvatore, President of the Sequoia Union Teachers Association, said that this creates a problem because “students no longer have access to supplies, or are grouped together in a location where they cannot do small group discussions that had been previously designed.” She also mentioned that in the more central location, like the PAC Cafe or Library, “teachers cannot follow a lesson plan with much more than basic instructions” because they’re forced to account for many different classes in the same location.
In the most extreme of situations, even M-A and District Administration have had to pitch in. This year, many guidance counselors have had to cover classes. Principal Karl Losekoot and Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hanson have also been substitutes here and there. Being in a position where administrators have to sub only goes to show how great the problem really is.
As a result of all these issues, teachers are less inclined to take days off because they don’t want to leave their students in limbo. According to AP Literature and Psychology teacher Lisa Otsuka, missing a day is stressful for teachers “because, going in, you know that your class might not get a sub.”
Jacobson added that she took a day off for a Jewish Holiday to celebrate, but was very hesitant to do so because she was “mindful of the strong possibility that there wouldn’t be an available sub.” She also added that “when students need to take a day off because they are sick, we [the school] generally encourage them to do so. However, because teachers don’t have anybody to cover, they can’t feel the same way about missing a single day.”
Fortunately, the District has taken some measures to increase the number of available subs. They have raised the pay for half-day and full-day subs and have done a significant amount of advertising. At the top of Bear notes, the weekly newsletter sent out to M-A families, there have been ads for substitute teaching jobs. The hope is that, with a consistent and high volume approach, there will be a greater influx of subs later this spring and in subsequent years.