Local schools struggle with substitute teacher shortage

MEDFORD, Ore.- In the face of a state-wide substitute teacher shortage, Oregon is offering a new emergency substitute license. For some local school districts it can provide relief for both schools and existing substitutes. The state rolled out the new emergency licenses this week, and superintendents in the area are already hopeful about what it could mean for their districts.

“It’s been a bit of a crisis for us, yes,” said Brad Earl, Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the Medford School District.” We like to have about 250 substitutes in the pool and right now we are lucky to have 50 or 60 rotating through our system.”

He says they are struggling, even with roving subs and retired teachers stepping up.

“We had some that were like ‘Well I’ll substitute a couple days a week.’ Well, we need them everyday!”

The new emergency licenses are short term, but would require subs to stay within one district.  The biggest change is in the requirements.

“There’s not a requirement for a bachelors degree, which is common in many of our other licenses,” said TSPC Executive Director Dr. Anthony Rosilez explained. Not requiring a bachelor for a substitute teaching license is not uncommon in other states. That change in requirement is not a concern for many school districts, like Phoenix-Talent.

“We have some amazing instructional aids and support staff that do not have bachelor’s degrees that I have no problem thinking they can be in a classroom and substitute for the day,” explained Superintendent Brent Barry. Giving educational staff a chance to step up can open possibilities for them, and lighten the load on full-time teachers.

“We have a lot of support in our buildings to make sure people don’t feel out on an island and by themselves when they’re working with kids in classrooms,” Barry said.

“I think that these temporary emergency situations are better then doubling up a class or offering a second P.E. period because then the lesson can still go on,” Earl said.

With flu and cold season around the corner, and Covid-19 quarantine protocols a common concern, the educators say having a big pool of substitutes means more consistent in-person learning for students.

“The things we can do to ensure that, is way better for kids and families,” Superintendent Barry said.

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Grace Smith
Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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