Substitute teacher shortage force Southwest Virginia schools to go virtual

Divisions have no substitutes when teachers are exposed to COVID-19

ROANOKE, Va. – As school divisions across the country work to keep students in school, a teacher shortage is making it hard for some districts in our area to keep classrooms full.

School divisions across Southwest Virginia are struggling to keep students in school because of a shortage of staff members, including Pulaski County.

“There was a point last week when we were averaging over 40 employees and they were out because they were quarantining for a positive diagnosis or an exposure,” Pulaski County Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said.

The school division has had several virtual learning days after dozens of teachers have called out because of exposures from COVID-19.

“We just do not have enough coverage for when those individuals have to be out,” Siers said.

Teachers are not the only position in dire need of being filled right now, especially for Franklin County.

“Just like all other school divisions that say hiring, hiring, we’re no different,” Franklin County Superintendent Dr. Bernice Cobbs said.

The county is down several positions needed to operate day-to-day.

“We do have bus driver openings we always welcome applications,” Cobbs said.

Superintendents like Siers are having to get creative to bring more people in the door.

“We had a lot of people kicking in to cover a substitute so we came up with some incentives to encourage other teachers to stand in for a substitute such as paying teachers for their planning time if they had to go in and cover for another teacher,” Siers said.

And while most schools were hoping it would only be temporary, they are now preparing for the long haul.

“The issues we’re dealing with are not short-term as we had hoped they would be at the beginning of the year, this is spilling over into September and looking forward October now we’re still dealing with some of those same issues,” Siers said.

Schools could have more virtual learning days if the shortages continue.

About the Author

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.

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