Substitute teacher shortage impacts schools across area

Posted at 6:03 PM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 18:03:09-04

NOVI, Mich. (WXYZ) — On Friday, three schools in Ann Arbor offered only remote learning, because there were not enough substitutes to teach in-person.

Monday, once again a school in the district closed for in-person learning because of staffing issues. The district sent this letter to parents notifying them it closed the A2 STEAM K8 School for in-person learning because it could not fill more than 20% of positions open due to absences.

School leaders around metro Detroit say the shortage of substitute teachers is not isolated.

“The things we are doing, we are reducing the amount of professional development that we do with our staff because we don’t want to take them out of the classroom. We are having teachers teach on their prep hour,” said Dr. Steve Matthews, Novi Community Schools Superintendent.

Dr. Matthews says even at schools that have not had to shut down in-person learning, learning is impacted. What is causing this? He says some absences in his district may be connected to COVID-19 cases or quarantines, but more are connected to seasonal colds and flu.

He says all schools know that closing due to a lack of staff is an option they hope to avoid, but possibly won’t always be able to.

“It is going to be a challenge. We are encouraging staff to get vaccinated. Currently, we have a mask mandate, so that is certainly going to help,” said Matthews.

“Anyone who wants to wear a mask we are supportive of them doing so,” said Eric Edoff, Lanse Creuse Superintendent.

Lanse Creuse Public Schools is in Macomb County, which does not have a mask mandate. Edoff says that doesn’t seem to be exacerbating the substitute shortage. He doesn’t believe it is significantly connected to masks or concerns about getting sick. He believes it is economic and cultural.

“We need to start celebrating again education and celebrating teachers. Celebrating the role of becoming a teacher. There have been a lot of negative attacks on teachers over a long period of time,” said Edoff.

School leaders are asking anyone interested in substituting to apply for positions, to help address the shortage.