BOSTON (WHDH) - Some school districts in Massachusetts are scrambling to find substitute teachers as the COVID-19 omicron variant begins to cause crippling staffing shortages.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius stepped in to teach poetry and math to a classroom full of elementary school students on Wednesday after about 1,100 teachers and staff members called out sick on the district’s second day of classes following the holiday break.
There were 228 new COVID-19 cases reported among teachers and staff on Tuesday, as well as 289 cases among students.
“Today is all about our children. I’m just really excited to be here,” Cassellius said of her opportunity to teach after about a couple of decades removed from it.
In Brookline, educators sent out advertisements to everyone with ties to the school system in an attempt to recruit much-needed substitute teachers.
A spokesperson for Brookline Public Schools said the district began the year with 20 percent fewer substitutes on hand. The recent surge in virus cases has made the situation more dire.
Officials in Brockton say they are struggling to recruit new substitutes, despite raising the daily rate of pay for fill-in teachers.
“The district raised its daily rate of pay for substitute teachers from $95 to $135 on Monday to hopefully attract more substitutes. We are still struggling to recruit new substitutes despite that increase and we are using all available staff, including paraprofessionals and district administrators, to cover classrooms,” a Brockton Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement.
Gleen Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, is urging the state to relax the rules around retired teachers to allow them to help fill open roles.
“If you’ve retired under the state’s early-retirement system, there is a waiting period,” Koocher said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, nursing schools graduated students early so they could assist in swamped hospitals.
Michael Maguire, a Boston Teachers Union Board member, has proposed graduating college students majoring in education a semester early as a way of filling the void.
Boston is also holding job fairs in an effort to fill the position quickly.
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