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Local school districts face substitute teacher challenges

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Katricia Montemayor

Cedar County News

HARTINGTON — Schools across Nebraska are experiencing a substitute teacher shortage as one consequence of COVID-19. 

A quick search online for available substitute teaching positions will result in many listings across the state. The pandemic has brought about a higher demand for substitutes in order to fill in for educators who may have to quarantine. However, many substitutes are retired teachers who may prefer to stay home and watch for their health, leaving schools in a tight situation when it comes to finding a substitute. 

The situation in Hartington has been no different. The local substitutes list is shorter compared to past years as many of them are retired teachers. Math teacher Lori Peitz expressed her thoughts on finding a substitute while absent. 

“Finding a sub was difficult. Some were already coming in for another teacher, some had other commitments and some were reluctant to sub with the possible risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Peitz said. 

Some substitute teachers are being called into school quite frequently. Lisa Korth has become a familiar face at Hartington-Newcastle Public Schools. Korth has substituted in many classrooms across many grades this year. 

“I believe the best place for our students to be is in school, and if me subbing nearly every day helps keep our students in school, that is what I will do. I love being able to spend time with all the different age levels,” Korth said. 

Cedar Catholic and Holy Trinity have also struggled with finding substitute teachers this year.

“Holy Trinity relies heavily on the paraprofessionals on staff who are also qualified to sub.  At Cedar Catholic, we’ve been forced to ask teachers to give up their planning time to cover for absent teachers,” said Cedar Catholic principal, Christopher Uttecht.

Individuals that have 60 hours of college credits could be part of the answer to the sub shortage crisis, as they may be eligible to become a substitute teacher through a local substitute certificate. The Nebraska Department of Education requires applicants to have a human relations training and a professional education course in addition to a written request from the local superintendent for the certificate of a specific school district. 

Area colleges have also been offering the human relations training and the professional education course in the attempt to increase the number of subs available. Wayne State College offered a three-week program in December to help people fulfill licensing requirements. Northeast Community College will start similar courses Jan. 25. 

In addition to the NDE requirements, Cedar County Catholic Schools need all substitutes to have a Safe Environment training, provided by the Archdiocese, Uttecht said. 

Anyone who may be interested in becoming a local substitute teacher can visit the Nebraska Department of Education for more information or contact the school administration at Hartington-Newcastle schools and/or Cedar Catholic.

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