Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

A critical shortage of replacement teachers during the pandemic can make it difficult for some California school districts to reopen campuses or keep open schools that are already offering face-to-face tuition.

Due to the sharp decline in applications for replacement teaching certificates since January and the migration of already recognized deputies, some districts were unable to keep the classrooms open, especially since more teachers are being quarantined after possible exposure to Covid-19.

Replacement pools in school districts are partially emptied because temporary teachers no longer have to wait to be called for the scarce distance learning jobs or are uncomfortable with the technology required. Some representatives in districts that have reopened their campus fear returning to the classroom during the pandemic or failing to find childcare for children who are at home for half the week in hybrid classes.

California has had a replacement shortage for years, but the pandemic is making it worse, especially for smaller rural areas. However, the problem is a concern for many districts, even larger ones, as they prepare to reopen in 2021.

“I’m very concerned about this, especially when schools switch to face-to-face teaching.” said Mari Baptista, chairwoman of the Human Resources Management Services Steering Committee for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association. “We need to be more proactive in this regard. We don’t get any replacement applications. “

The state has seen a steady decline in the number of applicants for replacement cards over the past two years, with a significant decrease since January, according to the Commission on Teachers’ Cards. The data received from the Commission show that there were 22,236 applicants for replacement cards between February 1 and August 31, compared with 31,871 in the same period in 2019. In the second half of 2018, there were more than 42,300 applications for replacement cards.

The pandemic has made a dire situation worse. Tim Taylor, Managing Director of Association of Small School Districtscalls the lack of substitute teachers a “code red problem” for rural schools.

The Mother Lode Union School District closed its two Placerville schools on November 20, a month after they reopened, when four of the district’s 53 teachers and three students were diagnosed with Covid-19, said Marcy Guthrie, superintendent of the K-8- District. that serves 1,028 students.

A shortage of substitute teachers was one of the reasons the district closed, Guthrie said. Mother Lode Union shares a pool of 318 representatives with the other 15 school districts in El Dorado County.

Since the district closed schools, the number of coronavirus infections in the district has risen to 10: six teachers, one staff member and three students.

Fifty miles north of Placerville, three to the west Nevada County Nine school districts returned to distance learning in the past two months due to possible exposure to Covid-19 and lack of representation.

Eureka City Schools in Humboldt County closed its nine locations after Thanksgiving on the recommendation of the district health authorities who wanted to mitigate the high number of Covid-19 cases in the district. But the 3,600-student district wouldn’t have had enough teachers or kept it open anyway, Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said.

“If we had stayed open it wouldn’t have worked. We had so many teachers who had to quarantine themselves because they decided to travel, ”Van Vleck said during Thanksgiving on public health Guidance That prompted residents to quarantine themselves for 14 days after leaving the county.

The district has set one Reopening on January 19th for elementary school students, although Van Vleck said it is not likely because of the high level of Covid-19 transmission in the county.

Distance learning districts use far fewer substitutes than on campus students, but some district officials fear that bottlenecks could hinder plans from reopening.

“The biggest fear everyone has right now is that we won’t have enough staff to maintain the health and safety measures we need for personal instruction,” said Baptista, who is also the deputy superintendent of Santa Claus’ Human Resources Department, said Barbara County Education Office.

According to Baptista, the number of substitute teachers available in Santa Barbara County has plummeted. By doing In the Goleta Union School District of 3,619 students, the number of alternates dropped from 195 to 101 in one year, Baptista said. Fifty miles north, the Lompoc Unified replacement pool shrank from 101 in 2019 to 85 in 2020. The district has 10,000 students.

Typically, to qualify as a substitute teacher, an individual must have a bachelor’s degree, pass a basic proficiency test, and pass a background check. Potential teachers in a teacher prep program may substitute after completing 90 units of the college course.

Requirements for an emergency replacement apprenticeship certificate:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Pass the Basic teaching skills in California Test that starts at $ 41 or alternate tests. Fill out the application and pay a registration fee of $ 100.
  • Get fingerprint approval for at least $ 20 depending on the provider.

An emergency replacement card entitles the holder to serve as a daily replacement. The permit must be renewed annually. Prospective teachers can replace 90 units of full coursework in lieu of a bachelor’s degree, but otherwise have the same requirements as teachers who have an emergency replacement teaching certificate. Potential teachers are limited to 90 replacement working days per year.

Source: Commission for the certification of teachers

District leaders interviewed by EdSource say the state could make it easier for people to become substitute teachers by waiving some of the fees required for a substitute ID.

Facilitating the requirements for replacement ID could also help, said Brock Falkenberg, superintendent of Schools in Lake County, whose office maintains the replacement pool for all schools in the county. He has asked officials from the California Commission on the Certification of Teachers to consider an exemption to allow college students who have completed 60 units to attend substitute classes, but it was unsuccessful.

Districts could also help by paying some fees for their proxiesSaid Taylor.

After a Proof of Entitlement is obtained, substitutes generally apply to multiple school districts to be added to their substitute pools. You will be called as needed and paid at a daily rate.

Districts in remote areas of the state are facing the greatest challenge during the pandemic as they have the smallest pool of qualified candidates to draw from. In Lake County, 16% of residents have a bachelor’s degree, Falkenberg said. The national average is 32%.

Falkenberg is certain that there will not be enough replacements when all schools in the district are reopened. Currently two school districts and The County Office of Education schools have locations where they can be taught in person. Four districts are in distance learning.

Education bureau staff have tried to add to the replacement pool in the county since schools closed in March, but the deficit has grown. Falkenberg said they couldn’t hire substitutes during the closings because older retired teachers who regularly serve on substitutions don’t feel safe returning to classrooms and because some regular substitutes have taken on other jobs.

In the Santa Barbara County Education Office, where most schools are back to face-to-face teaching, 36 deputies remain from the pool of 91 representatives the District Office had in May 2019. Most surrogate teachers dropped out of the surrogate pool because they are over 65, have health issues that put them at high risk if they contract Covid-19 or have other concerns related to the pandemic, Baptista said.

Meanwhile, the demand for representatives continues to grow as some districts find they need them to assist teachers who are sometimes asked to teach both students in the classrooms and those receiving online lessons from home.

District officials are finding creative ways to attract alternates to their districts, including providing cash grants for employees who hire a substitute, Baptista said. Santa Barbara Unified, a district of 14,538 residents, is offering $ 100 to anyone who can refer a replacement to the district. The district’s spare pool decreased from 331 in 2019 to 254 in 2020, according to Baptista.

To ensure there are always enough replacements for each school, Santa Barbara Unified hired two long-term representatives for each school for the first semester of the school year, said John Becchio, assistant superintendent of human resources.

At Mother Lode Union, Guthrie decided this was the best way to stay Substitute teacher A training program is to be launched during distance and hybrid learning to ensure that they are comfortable with the technology and Covid-19 protocols required in schools.

Chico Unified, whose pool of substitute teachers has shrunk from 300 to 60, is offering to pay the cost of an emergency ID card for every non-teaching staff member with a bachelor’s degree, assistant superintendent Jim Hanlon said. Some employees who accepted the offer were class assistants who then also have to be replaced.

Replacement pay, which averaged $ 120 per day nationwide in May 2019, can be a hurdle to recruiting temporary teachers, Baptista said. To encourage substitute teachers to work in their districts, many have recently raised wages. For example, this year Eureka City Schools increased their daily replacement rate by $ 50 per day to $ 175 as long as replacement teachers attend a district training course.

The California Center on Teaching CareersDonna Glassman-Sommer, General Manager, is working with the Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Merced, and Sonoma Counties Education Offices to create a replacement micro-ID card. Micro credentials are acquired after a person has taken classes and demonstrates proficiency in certain skills. The replacement micro-credentials do not replace a replacement micro-credentials, but it does show that a replacement user has learned teaching strategies and how multiple learning platforms are being used.

Glassman-Sommer also recommends that school districts convert hiring replacement teachers into a grassroots effort that encourages staff to speak up.

“The good thing is that people work hard to find solutions,” said Glassman-Sommer. “People are exhausted and exhausted, and suddenly there is another surge of energy and more collaboration in the exchange of resources and ideas. I hope we keep doing this. “

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