‘We need subs’: Teachers Union says substitute shortage is draining

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The labor shortage is hitting almost every industry and school district in the nation, including right here in Allen County. One teachers union is addressing the substitute teacher shortage and how its plaguing the districts.

On Wednesday, WANE 15 reported that Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) is looking at ways to combat the issue, and even thinking about remote learning to ease the burden on staff.

Tuesday, East Allen Educator’s Association President Andra Kosmoski told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that FWCS isn’t alone.

“This has actually been a problem for several years. This is something that all across Indiana we have problems getting subs. It just seems to be getting worse and worse,” Kosmoski said. “I’m not really sure if it’s completely pandemic caused, but what I do know is that just the teacher shortage itself has made things worse.”

When substitutes aren’t available, the administration has to find a way to cover.

In the elementary level, classrooms are split up and transferred to other teachers, increasing the class size. Another thing that happens is if there is a sub for classes such as physical education (P.E.), art, and music, those subs are pulled and put in a regular classroom. That results in students not participating in P.E., art or music that day, and teachers losing their planning period.

In the secondary level, teachers do not get a planning period, instead they cover classrooms.

Kosmoski said this is an everyday occurrence.

“If you got more kids in your room, that’s increased workload. If you don’t get your plan time that’s increased workload,” Kosmoski said. “It’s draining. It’s a major complaint by all teachers. It’s hard because when we are covering for someone we don’t have time to be doing our own work because we are covering for someone else.”

WANE 15 reached out to Northwest Allen County (NACS), Southwest Allen County (SACS) and East Allen County Schools (EACS) about the staffing shortage. The spokesperson for EACS said the district is working on a plan, so there isn’t much they can say right now.

NACS sent this statement:

It is not unusual to have an estimated 8 to 12 teaching positions open on any given day. This shortage is not a result of the pandemic as the pool has been dwindling for several years. The pandemic escalated the shortage by shrinking the pool of available substitutes in part due to an aging population. Additionally, some area employers are offering wages substantially beyond our capabilities. NACS currently has 76 open classified positions including instructional assistants, food services, custodians and bus drivers. This figure does not include available substitute teaching positions. Anyone interested in part-time or full-time employment is encouraged to visit nacs.k12.in.us/employment for more information.

SACS statement:

It is difficult to look at the news or attempt to eat inside a fast food restaurant and not see and feel the effects of the labor shortage. Store doors open later and close earlier.

The pandemic has created and/or amplified challenges school districts face, too.  The shortage of bus drivers has been a national issue for years. At SACS we saw some of our semi-retired employees decide to call it quits when the pandemic hit whether it was for personal health reasons or to protect the health of their family and friends. Similarly, we saw some employees who regularly served as substitute teachers decide not to return. Our already small pool of employees did shrink.

The positions at SACS are not volunteer positions. These are clearly defined roles within the district that offer secure work, competitive salary and benefits. Many of the positions offer the opportunity to work directly with students and may require specific qualifications and/or training.

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