More substitute teachers are certified in La Salle, Marshall and Putnam counties heading into this school year than the previous year – and officials believe they’ll be needed.
According to the Regional Office of Education, 96 new substitutes and 21 new short-term substitutes have registered this year, compared with 77 substitutes and 18 short-term substitutes the previous school year.
There’s a necessity for more.
Regional Superintendent Chris Dvorak hopes the risk of spreading COVID-19 will make teachers less likely to push through symptoms or illnesses.
“I think people are going to be more aware, and they’re going to err on the side of caution,” Dvorak said. “We encourage districts to work with staff. If there are any symptoms, they need to be mindful and protect the well-being of everybody in that building.”
Dvorak said school administrations would rather a teacher take a day or several days off, get tested and learn the cause of their symptoms rather than report to the school and risk the possibility of infecting a large number of people.
Schools will have a self-certification process that all staff members will have to go through in order to enter the building, while substitutes will have to go through a process similar to going to a doctor’s appointment.
“They’ll have their temps taken, asked if they have symptoms or if they’ve left the country recently upon entry into the building,” Dvorak said. “Whoever is scheduling will have to walk through the steps with whoever is coming in that day.”
In order to combat the potential for a shortage of substitute teachers, the Illinois Board of Education has released a guideline that allows the teacher to stay in contact if they have to quarantine, even if they are asymptomatic.
Teachers will be able to work from home from a webcam while an aide stationed in the classroom provides in-person guidance for students.
“How cool is that?” Dvorak said. “We have these great substitutes that fulfill their roles, but now with technology, we can have teachers continue their lessons from home, theoretically, and get through this weird time that we’re living in.”
Dvorak said, for example, it may be hard to find a math teacher who understands the lesson at the time, so being able to have a teacher work in a remote setting will be beneficial to classes.
Additionally, Dvorak said schools are doing away with perfect attendance awards this year in order to adjust how attendance is viewed. They don’t want anyone at the school if they aren’t feeling well.
“If you aren’t feeling well, don’t fight through just to come to school,” Dvorak said. “We’ll have more students missing than ever before, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, but that’s what’s right. We’re discouraging perfect attendance this year.”
Dvorak said districts still are looking for substitutes who have a passion for working with students and want to fill a role during a tough time.
“If you enjoy working with children, you can do a lot of good right now,” Dvorak said. “Even after COVID, we will still be needing help.”
In order to substitute teach, applicants will need to go through the fingerprinting process at the La Salle County courthouse, where precautions are in place: Everything is sanitized, and everyone who enters the building gets their temperature checked.
Those interested can find information at https://bit.ly/ROE35subteach or call 815-434-0780.