Spokane area school districts need emergency substitutes as COVID-19 cases spike

SPOKANE, Wash.– School districts need substitutes to avoid the worst-case scenario: closing down their building.

From teachers to bus drivers and cafeteria workers, local school districts need people to fill in when regular employees call out sick. Spokane Public Schools and the Central Valley School District both said they haven’t had a need for substitutes like this in years.

Both districts are looking to hire emergency substitutes. That means they’re looking for people with either a two-year or four-year degree, in any subject, to possibly become a substitute. If a person applies and signs on, the district will work with the person to get an emergency certificate through the state.

Emergency substitutes are only called if districts exhaust all options including assigning all other regular substitutes and don’t have any other staff members.

Staffing levels in schools are hitting a critical level. The East Valley School District canceled school on Monday because it didn’t have enough food services and transportation employees.

To try and get ahead of the curve, CVSD and SPS are trying to hire those emergency substitutes to avoid closing down or going remote. The districts need to make their substitute pool bigger, as subs are also having to call out.

“We’ve had a struggle with our substitute pool all year, and so all fall it’s been a struggle. We really were making some headway with some hires recently and then COVID kind of backed that train up a little bit. It’s really kind of been a year struggle, the staff struggle has been tough for us,” said Mandi Rehn, the Central Valley School District’s executive director of human resources.

On Tuesday, Central Valley Schools had more than 300 staff members call out because of COVID-19 or other absences. Rehn said they had to call in about 75-percent of its substitute pool.

Mead mom Megan Gray says her oldest son has noticed changes around school. She says he’s had more substitutes and more friends are out because of COVID-19. While she understands what’s happening, she can’t help but be worried about her kids’ education.

“I’m concerned because I think consistency is important for our kids,” she said. “But, I think this is an opportunity for parents to be held accountable for their kids’ education. We can teach our kids to adapt and be gracious and work a little extra hard when times like this are kind of weird.”

Rehn said parents should not be worried about their children’s education. Even though fewer employees are there and more people are subbing in, teachers still plan out the lessons.

“They spend hours on their lesson plans. To the point where the substitute teacher can just follow everything they’ve written down. Although the substitute teacher can put their uniqueness on that, I think they’re so detailed and lined out,” Rehn said.

While this is a stressful situation, as a parent, Gray knows teachers and schools are doing what they can to get through this.

“Be thankful. Teach our kids gratitude. Tell the teacher that you’re thankful for everything they do any chance you get,” Gray said. “There’s so much division right now and there’s no reason for our kids to feel that division. If we can instill in them some perseverance and help get them through this, it will help them later in life. I strongly think that.”

>You can find substitute jobs with Spokane Public Schools here.

>You can find substitute jobs with Central Valley School District here. 

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