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Central Indiana school districts plead for parents to substitute teach during staff shortage

Teachers who are missing days due to illness or to take care of their sick children are leaving school districts reaching out for substitute teachers.

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. — School districts across central Indiana are pleading with parents to become substitute teachers to help keep their kids learning in-person in the classroom. 

Many schools have been forced to temporary remote learning because of staff shortages caused by COVID-19 absences. 

Mrs. Rodebeck's fourth grade class at New Palestine Elementary School worked in teams to put together 100-piece puzzles as quickly as possible Thursday, celebrating the 100th day of school. But Mrs. Rodebeck is absent. Janice Brittsan is the substitute teacher, a parent with three children that have gone through Southern Hancock County Schools. Brittsan has substitute taught in the district for about five years.

"I have been picking up extra days than what I normally would because I know of the extra need,” said Brittsan. “I don't particularly mind which grade level I'm in. So, I can go to the different schools and help out as needed." 

The Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County shifted to e-learning in all schools for one day last Friday due to staff absences. 

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"Teachers are getting sick,” said New Palestine Elementary School Assistant Principal Nik Giant. “Their kids are getting sick, which causes them to have to stay home with their kids. So, it's a battle every day to make sure we have enough people to staff the rooms."

Credit: WTHR
Substitute teacher and parent Janice Brittsan in a fourth grade class at New Palestine Elementary School.

New Palestine Elementary School had three substitute teachers in classrooms on Thursday. They could have used 10 subs. One parent was in a kindergarten classroom as a sub for the first time.  

"By far the largest percentage of our sub pool are parents that come to us and basically want to work alongside the school calendar, and want to work when we're open, and want to be home with the kids when the kids are home,” said Wes Anderson, director of school and community relations for Southern Hancock County Schools.

Subs filling in for a certified teacher make $95 a day in the district. 

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"It's fun interacting with all the different grade levels,” said Brittsan. “It's not super difficult. Typically, the teacher leaves you detailed plans and the materials that you need. I've never had a day where I didn't know what to do."

The sub shortage is widespread. Hamilton Southeastern Schools Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Stokes recently sent out a video message asking parents to consider being subs.  

"You can make your own schedule, and even subbing one day a week will help make a difference,” Stokes said in the video.

Trying to cover staff shortages is a puzzle for school administrators with too many missing pieces right now.