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States hope relaxed substitute teaching requirements will ease omicron labor crunch

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ.)

As coronavirus cases continue to spike nationwide, many school districts in Mid-Missouri are finding it difficult to keep teachers inside the classroom.

"There isn't a lot of wiggle room, and if a bunch of teachers are out because of having to be quarantined because they're sick, it's going to be a real strain on the system," Noelle Gizlow, president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association, told ABC 17 News earlier last week.

Columbia Public Schools' substitute fill rate is sitting at 44.8% this week. On Jan. 11 of last year, CPS reported a 97.4% sub-fill rate.

CPS had 60 staff members on leave because they have caught the virus or been exposed and 325 students have active COVID-19 infections. School officials have said they're seeing more positive cases in students and staff as the more transmissible omicron variant becomes more dominant.

Some schools have had to move to online classes temporarily because of staffing shortages, as well.

Eager to replace teachers who are our sick with the variant, some schools have decided to temporarily reduce their substitute teaching requirements. According to the Associated Press, Kansas has removed a 60 semester credit requirement for people seeking an emergency substitute license. Typically, substitutes need a minimum of 60 semester credit hours from a college or university. However, Kansas City emphasizes its need to change this policy to keep students in the classroom as they continue to deal with short staffing.

It's been a little over a year since Missouri has eased its substitute teacher requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Substitute teacher requirements now allow people with a high school diploma or equivalent to complete a 20-hour state-approved substitute teacher online training.

"It opens up a new audience of people for us.. to be substitute teachers. Not everybody has 60 semester hours. but that doesn't mean they couldn't be a good substitute teacher so we're able to target some people in communities that we think could be good substitute teachers but don't have the semester hours", assistant commissioner Paul Katnik said.

For people interested in becoming a substitute teacher the training will include topics in professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs and working with at-risk youth.

Each applicant is required to create a profile in DESE's certification application, you then need to provide original transcripts from all institutions you have attended or you can provide a copy of a high school diploma, GED, High School equivalence test or a certificate from an approved substitute training.

"They said these folks are in some way even better prepared to be a substitute teacher better than they were with 60 semester credit hours", Katnik said.

Kennedy Miller

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