Schools Struggle with Substitute Teacher Shortage

By  Erica Breunlin

Before December, it wasn’t unusual for a West Valley Middle School teacher to spend some school days standing over a class of 50 students — 35 of his or her own and 15 more temporarily inherited from a colleague.

“And the kids will just be sitting on the floor,” said Lisa Green, an eighth-grade math teacher at the school.

Splitting students up among different classrooms is one solution Knox County schools have turned to when unable to find enough substitute teachers.

Students back Jan. 8 as flu season peaks

It’s a problem in the district most days as one or more classrooms often don’t have someone to manage them when the school day begins, according to Knox County Board of Education member Patti Bounds.

And, as students return to class from winter break on Jan. 8, flu season is at a peak, compounding the problem.

In October alone, 639 of 5,205 vacancies went unfilled, according to data provided by the district.

The days Green hasn’t been able to secure a substitute for her students translate into days of lost learning.

“I don’t like for my students to miss a day of instruction, and so when I’m not here and I don’t have a sub they’re missing a day of instruction,” she said.

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