PERRYSBURG, Ohio — As school districts prepare for a year unlike any we’ve ever seen before, filling substitute teacher positions is yet another challenge.
For Rachel Immerman, becoming a teacher has always been her goal.
“Growing up, I used to play school in my basement with my cousins and brothers. I have known from day one that if I want to help make an impact on the world and the next generation—we can do that by making one students day a little bit better every single day," Immerman said.
Since graduating, she said it’s been hard to find a job as an elementary school teacher, so she’s looking at becoming a substitute teacher, which turns out, it's not exactly ideal right now.
"Substitute pay is very low in the state of Ohio," Immerman said. "Most sub jobs don’t have any benefits, no health care benefits, no paid sick leave, and those kinds of concerns in addition to working and living in a COVID world, it’s very concerning and I don’t honestly know if it’s a livable work situation right now.”
Scott DiMauro, the president of the Ohio Education Association, said the state is facing a significant substitute teacher shortage for the upcoming school year.
“Even before the pandemic started, school districts were having difficulty filling substitute teaching positions,” said DiMauro. “It’s going to be a challenge. And if districts can’t find substitutes that they need, I think it’s going to pose a real challenge to maintain social distancing and keep schools open safely.”
Perrysburg Schools, just outside Toledo, is one of the districts trying to fill positions. It's also challenging for them because it's costly, and money is tight.
"Subs cost money. Every time we have a teacher that has to go into quarantine, and it can be up to two weeks, and we have to fill that position,” said Kellie Johnson, Perrsysburg Schools Executive Director of Human Resources. “We spend a lot of money on substitute teachers every year, and that just compounds our financial situation because we’ve had hits from every angle from our revenue right now.”
Johnson said the district is hoping to have around 180 subs this school year. And with several longtime subs and retirees not returning over COVID-19 concerns, the district is looking to hire more recent grads with embracing a hybrid in-person plan.
“We’ve been having a lot of recent graduates who are unable to find positions because other districts aren’t hiring. They are unable to obtain a position so they look to substitute teaching.”
Being one of those recent grads, Immerman is close to getting her first job. Still, there's a lot of uncertainty for a very different school year.
“If I get offered a job tomorrow, that’s not the job that I prepared for years for. And so even looking at what that might look like in a virtual world and a hybrid learning model, it’s truly overwhelming and a little scary.”
Perrysburg Schools are also looking at hiring people in between jobs. Those with a four-year college degree and a sub license can qualify to be a substitute teacher with a background check.