District in need of substitutes

BROOKINGS – As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the county and the Brookings School District, students are not the only people missing time at school. 

Teachers, assistant teachers and other staff members needed to properly run a school have also been forced to miss time, whether that be from illness, contact tracing, coaching duties, or even staying home with their own kids who may be sick.

“I heard today that there were so many teachers gone and they couldn’t even find a substitute for all of the teachers that were absent,” School Board member Debra DeBates said at Monday’s Brookings School Board meeting. “That is a big concern to me.”

The substitute shortage has previously been reported on, but with the latest surge in cases, the issue seems to be getting bigger.

“I don’t know what we can do about this, but I am just hearing we need so many substitute teachers,” DeBates said. “And we don’t have them.”

The district’s December expenses report detailed the extent that the schools have spent on subs so far this school year.

The table does not show the entire picture, however. As DeBates explained, the issue isn’t paying subs, it’s finding them. She says that she has personally tried to recruit substitutes herself, with some success (two substitutes). 

“I’m sure that’s putting additional stress on our teachers, because what they do then in many cases is say, ‘Oh, we’ll take you out of your planning period, and we’ll have you substitute for someone else who’s out sick,’” DeBates said. “Over time, that just continues to increase the stress levels for the teachers. We have to do something.”

For a school to function properly, it takes more than just a full-stable of classroom teachers. Guidance counselors and special education teachers and assistants are crucial to any school, but especially at the intermediate and elementary levels. Two tables outlined how much each of the schools have spent on guidance and special education substitutes.

“I believe every administrator that I speak on behalf of would echo the same concerns that the staffing – finding substitutes is a real concern,” Superintendent Klint Willert said at the Jan. 10 School Board meeting, explaining that they are monitoring the amount of staffing they have in each of the buildings.

“I agree we don’t want to burn our teachers out, and that’s where we are, just trying to talk about ways that we can support teachers and offer ways we can find ways to recognize teachers,” Willert added. “It’s a real challenge, though, when you don’t have enough people.

Willert explained that he spoke with legislators about this issue, and it was acknowledged.

“I think it’s something that needs to be a hot topic, obviously, at the legislative session,” Willert said. “We are not unique in this. This is something that every school district superintendent that I have talked to this year has said exactly the same thing. This is something that everyone is struggling with.”

To keep things afloat, Willert explained that principals at the schools have been stepping in to fill where needed.

“Everyone is just doing everything they can to keep us in-person and in-session,” Willert added.

“What I am fearful of is that we are going to lose some good teachers,” DeBates said. “There’s a crisis getting people into the profession, but I am worried we are going to lose some of the people we have because of this additional stress that’s being placed on them with the lack of substitutes.”

To apply to be a substitute, visit the district’s employment page: https://brookings.tedk12.com/hire/index.aspx.

Contact Addison DeHaven at [email protected]


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