Substitute teacher shortage could impact Colorado classrooms

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DENVER (KDVR) – Concerns are growing among Colorado educators about a lack of substitute teachers willing to work during the pandemic. 

On Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released new guidelines for how schools should deal with COVID-19 cases.

Those guidelines call for teachers to be sent home for 14 days if any student in their class tests positive. 

“That is going to require more educators, not less,” says Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association. “We already had a massive educator shortage prior to COVID-19, and there’s real fear this could exacerbate that.”

Sue Rediske has been a substitute teacher in Littleton Public Schools for nearly 20 years, but says this year, she’ll be staying home. 

“My husband is compromised,” she says. “He’s had heart trouble, and it’s just not a risk worth taking.” 

Rediske says a significant portion of Colorado’s substitute teacher pool is made up of older, retired teachers who would be at a greater risk of COVID-19 complications. 

“I think the sub pool might be reduced by quite a bit,” she says. “I think it’s likely to be a problem.”

So far, 330 substitute teachers have agreed to work in-person in Denver Public Schools this year. 

A district spokesperson said:

“With the health guidelines restricting the number of adults in contact with students, we are trying to create plans that best utilizes the available guest teachers in a safe way for our staff and students.”

Classrooms across the state will be much smaller this year, as cohorts and social distancing are taken into consideration. 

“There’s real questions about what will happen when someone gets sick, and there’s not a sub to fill in for that spot,” says Baca-Oehlert. 

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