by Russ O’Reilly

Altoona Area School District is experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers, and it’s taking a toll on full-time teachers who are asked to cover for vacancies in addition to maintaining their own schedule, Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said.

The district’s 70 active substitutes filled 3,914 vacancies that occurred for reasons ranging from sickness to professional development outside the classroom since the beginning of the school year.  There were 787 vacancies so far this year that substitutes could not fill. Instead, full-time teachers already with a full schedule filled in.

“It wears down our faculty when they are asked to cover several times per week. It messes up their planning,” Prijatelj said during a school board presentation Monday in the William P. Kimmel board room.  The lack of substitutes has worsened since last year, Prijatelj said. He said the district actively recruited, but its contract with Substitute Teacher Services Inc. “is not getting them into the classroom.”

“It’s a concern as to whether we continue with STS or look for another substitute service,” Prijatelj said to the board, which would have to vote on changing services.

However, there are larger issues at play that are hurting districts’ substitute teaching pools. State law prohibits retired teachers from substituting, and there’s been a steep drop in new education graduates from universities.

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