WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As elementary students head back to the classroom for in-person learning on Wednesday (Jan. 12), there is concern about whether or not the district has enough substitute teachers for staff who are currently under quarantine.
According to Wichita Public Schools, more than 600 staff members are under active quarantine and more than a third of them have tested positive for COVID-19.
With those high numbers, some teachers are asking if enough subs are available.
“We definitely do not have enough substitutes to cover classes,” said Kimberly Howard, president of United Teachers of Wichita. “They were pulling subs from the administration center, just anywhere they could actually find somebody who could cover that class.”
While the concern is coming from the teacher’s union, district officials said there are enough subs, at least for now.
“We have about 850 active guest teachers or sub teachers in our pool right now, however, that has been cut in half due to where they can’t work right now due to the pandemic, as well,” said Stacie McKay with USD 259 substitute services.
McKay said currently, there are more than 300 people who can work anytime as a sub.
The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) has been thousands more applications for substitute licenses compared to last years numbers and they have another thousand going through the process.
“We want to have on staff roughly five times as many guest teachers as we have average absences,” said McKay.
But is that enough?
The district said worst-case scenario, para-educators or other staff members could help out and some teachers could potentially teach remotely.
Howard is skeptical, though, since last year lack of substitutes is what pushed remote learning.
“We had this big problem with elementary,” said Howard. “What’s going to happen when we bring back secondary?”
KSDE officials said they have been able to speed up the process to get substitute license applications back in less than a week, which will help with the turnaround for potential subs.
To find out more about getting substitute license through the state, click here.