The Missouri State Board of Education has relaxed substitute teacher requirements in case of a possible shortage because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new requirements allow individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent to complete 20-hour state-approved substitute teacher online training to become eligible for the substitute certificate.
According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the training includes topics regarding professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, foundational classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs and working with at-risk youth.
Before the new requirements were made, individuals looking to get the substitute certificate had to complete 60 semester hours or more of college-level credit from a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approved institution.
Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality Paul Katnik said DESE received feedback from schools about the difficulty there was to find substitute teachers.
"We would talk to school districts that called their list of subs for the year," Katnik said. "And half or more said they probably wouldn’t be substitute teaching this year."
He said the staffing providers that some Mid-Missouri schools use like Kelly Services or Penmac Staffing were reporting 15% to 27% down from last year.
Katnik said the new requirements will help Missouri school districts expand the pool of substitute teachers. He said that for the first time it allows DESE to target what a person needs to know to be able to be a good substitute teacher.
"There’s a lot of reasons that not everybody can go get 60 credit hours," Katnik said. "I think based on what we’re seeing it’s attracting some younger people."
He said DESE will be tracking people who take the training to see how well they do in Missouri school districts.
Across Mid-Missouri, some school districts have had to have teachers quarantine because of positive cases or exposure.
Fulton Public Schools had 73 quarantined members of the school community and two active cases as of Friday. Those numbers include staff and students
Southern Boone School District Superintendent Chris Felmlee said the district had 18 staff absences last week but not all absences were related to COVID-19.
Blair Oaks R-II School District has had three students, a After School Y-Care employee and a middle school staff member test positive for COVID-19 within the first three weeks of school.
Columbia Public Schools spokewoman Michelle Baumstark said that CPS uses EDUStaff for substitute staffing. She said the necessity for subs has increased due to the pandemic
"The need for substitutes has gone up dramatically because we have more and more employees that need to be out due to quarantining, or being a close contact or any of those reasons," Baumstark said.
Katnik said the new substitute requirement will expire in February unless the Missouri Board of Education decides to make the rule permanent.
More information regarding how to apply and costs to become a substitute teacher in Missouri can be found here.