Central Valley schools face critical substitute teacher shortage

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The pandemic has made the return to classrooms difficult for educators and students. This school year, another factor added a new challenge. A number of Central Valley school districts are struggling to find substitute teachers.

"Substitute teachers are so important to the daily operations of our school district," said Nikki Heny of the Fresno Unified School District. "But this year, more than ever, is really making sure that our classrooms can continue seamlessly."

When teachers are out, it can create a scramble to search for subs.

"If they have symptoms, if they're sick, if they've been exposed to COVID, then they can't come in and work," said Teresa Wood, Selma Unified School District.

On the Friday before Labor Day Weekend, Fresno Unified alone had to fill about 190 absences.

When substitutes aren't available, several districts call on other teachers or non-teaching staff to step in.

"We've had principals and program managers, assistant principals, people who have been helping cover in those classes," said Wood.

She explains the sub shortage is a by-product of a teacher shortage.

"When we have a teacher shortage and those individuals who were subbing then obtain regular teaching jobs, then that makes for fewer and fewer substitute teachers."

In hopes of attracting more subs, Selma Unified has increased its pay rate from $125 a day to at least $155.

In California, there are restrictions banning retired teachers from returning to work for at least six months. That ban has been lifted to address the shortage. Candidates with a Bachelor's degree no longer have to take the California Basic Skills Test, or CBEST.

"We just need as many teachers as we can get," said Henry.

For more information on becoming a substitute teacher at Selma Unified, contact Human Resources at (559)-898-6500 and RSVP for a virtual orientation at personnel@selmausd.org

There's also an online application.

For Fresno Unified, you can visit their website, call or text directly at 559-289-4599, or go to the FUSD Human Resources office on weekdays from 1pm-3pm.
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