BERRYVILLE – The Clarke County School Board has a new plan in place to try to ensure that no class is left unsupervised when teachers need to be away.
The plan is similar to the one approved for the previous school year. It relies heavily on the extra payment of teachers and teaching assistants to cover lessons for colleagues when they themselves are not in class, such as during teacher scheduling periods.
Wednesday was the start of the 2022-23 school year.
School divisions across the state have reported difficulty recruiting and retaining not only teachers, but substitute teachers as well. Clarke County Public Schools superintendent Chuck Bishop said the division has lost many of its regular replacements due to health and safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the past year, CCPS has needed about 10 to 12 substitutes each school day, Bishop told the Winchester Star on Thursday. He noted that this represents about 5% of the teaching staff absent daily.
Typically, he said, a peak in absences occurs from December to March – the winter months or flu season.
Substitutes are paid $110 per day to replace teachers and $90 per day to replace teaching assistants.
So far, finding enough replacements on any given day hasn’t been a major issue for the division, Bishop said.
Rather, the new plan is “in preparation for any shortages we may have in the future,” he told the school board on Monday evening. “We are just thinking about the future.”
Last October, amid the pandemic, the board authorized the superintendent to hire three “permanent substitutes” to work at the county’s two elementary schools for the remainder of the school year.
The new plan allows Bishop to hire two permanent replacements for DG Cooley Elementary and one for Boyce Elementary “if future conditions warrant.” Allocations are based on the schools’ student body size.
These replacements, who will work every day the students attend school, will not have a contract. They will be paid $105 per day. If a substitute is not needed on a particular day to oversee a classroom, they will take on other duties, such as assisting teachers and monitoring cafeterias during lunch periods, according to the plan.
If every permanent substitute replaces someone absent, but a class still remains without a teacher, then an elementary school could try to get someone from the list of substitutes approved by the division board.
Currently, 78 people are on the list. But “it’s a little misleading,” Bishop told the Star, because 25 of them are college students who are only available to work when they’re home during study breaks.
To be a substitute teacher, one must be at least 18 years old (preferably 21), be of good character and hold a high school diploma or equivalent certificate. To be a Highly Qualified Substitute, an individual must have a college education and/or show—by passing a test approved by the Virginia Department of Education—sufficient reading, writing, and math skills to qualify to assist in the education in these subjects.
At Johnson-Williams Middle School and Clarke County High School, the first preference will be to call someone on the roster, the plan says. If this does not work, available teachers will be assigned to cover other teachers’ classes during free time. They will be paid $30 for each class period they cover.
If teaching assistants need to be removed from their regular duties, they will be paid $53 for a full day or $28 for a half day, above their normal rate of pay for the day.
The additional compensation will be paid monthly, the plan says.
Only school administrators can assign class coverage assignments.
The members of the School Board did not comment at length on the new plan before unanimously adopting it.