Substitute teacher shortage heightens during pandemic, creates crisis for Siouxland districts

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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (KCAU) – There’s a dire need for substitute teachers across the nation and the pandemic has created a crisis for some Siouxland school districts.

“It was a challenge before, it’s a huge task this year,” Jill Gill, Director of Human Resources for South Sioux City Community Schools, said.

She said the district is looking at every option.

“We’re reaching out like never before.”

Gill adds administrators, college students and even those with a career other than teaching are being asked to fill in.

“It has been very overwhelming. Our students need teachers. Our students need that level of instruction every day in the class,” Gill said.

South Sioux City Community Schools normally needs around 40 subs. This year, on some days, the district needs up to 100, and the impact is much the same when it comes to filling those slots.

Gill said last year the fill rate for substitutes was around 80%. This year, it’s only half that, with 40% of substitute positions being filled.

“My schedule usually starts on Sunday night when John our sub caller calls and he says, ‘well, I have a full week for you.’ He will say tomorrow, ‘I need you at the middle school, Tuesday I need you at the high school, and then more than likely during the week,’ that morning, he’ll call and say, ‘I need you worse at this. I need you more at this school than I had you originally scheduled,” said Lorna Stamp, a substitute teacher.

Across the river, at Dakota Valley School District, the story is much the same.

“Feeling that there isn’t a way to get more subs. That it is something we can’t control,” Dr. Jerry Rasmussen, the superintendent of schools at Dakota Valley.

He said he’s had to shift staff and teachers to take on extra classes.

“During the pandemic, I think every school is struggling with coverage of when staff are absent, and I don’t see it’s going to get better, and I’m concerned that it might even get worse as we head into cold and flu season,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said the need for substitute teachers continues to be a struggle and he doesn’t see a solution. and adds it’s a real possibilty that a temporary closure could happen due to a shortage of staff, but the district is doing its best to fill the need.

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