As the Omicron variant spreads across the country, consuming school personnel, some states are resorting to increasingly creative measures to find the substitute teachers needed to keep schools open, in one case even calling in the National Guard.
While state employees can now serve as substitute teachers in some tough areas, other states are relaxing rules to speed up the hiring of reservists or pull retirees back into the classroom.
In New Mexico, where new cases are seen more than three times Over the past two weeks, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked the National Guard and government officials to serve as substitute teachers.
“Our children, teachers and parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty,” Governor Lujan Grisham said on Wednesday, adding that “the government is ready to help keep children in the classroom.”
Under New Mexico’s initiative, National Guard members and state employees must be licensed as substitute teachers or childcare workers and meet the usual requirements for substitute teachers, such as background checks and teaching workshop.
About 60 school districts and charter schools in New Mexico have switched to distance learning in recent weeks, and 75 childcare centers have been partially or completely closed due to staff shortages, state officials said.
Keeping schools open during the Omicron wave became a hotly debated topic at the national level, especially among parents. At a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, President Biden was asked about school closures, noting that most schools are open.
“Let’s put this into perspective: 95 percent, 98 percent of schools in America are open, operational and capable of doing the job,” Biden said, adding that he encourages states and school districts to use funding. keep schools open.
According to this Burbioa data company with watched how schools are responding to the pandemic, with an average of 3,631 out of 98,000 public schools interrupted each day in the last five school days, which is a relatively low number.
Whitney Holland, president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Mexico, said on Wednesday that the shortage of teaching staff is a “countrywide crisis.”
“I think ‘terrible’ is an appropriate word,” Holland said, noting that he supports Governor Lujan Grisham’s initiative to keep schools open to students.
“Whether it’s a member of the National Guard, a government employee or a deputy, as long as there’s a positive adult they can connect with and as long as we keep our schools open, that’s our priority,” he said.
In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order Tuesday allowing government agencies’ employees to serve as substitute teachers without affecting their regular jobs, pay, or benefits.
“I have said from the beginning that our students deserve face-to-face education and that our schools should stay open,” Governor Stitt said. “The state is obliged to do everything we can to make this happen,” he said.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last week loosening rules for substitute teachers, citing the Omicron surge. The order, which is scheduled to run until March, accelerates the hiring of qualified short-term reservists, enables the extension of existing reservists and facilitates the return of retired teachers.
Teachers are not the only underprivileged school workers. Last year in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker mobilized the National Guard. Lack of bus drivers. And in North Carolina, legislators have given districts federal funds to meet signature bonuses to help alleviate the cafeteria worker shortage.