COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — The omicron variant is taking a toll on Ohio’s teacher workforce and is now leading to shortages and forcing some schools to close and go remote. The quality of teaching is now suffering, and the pool of substitute teachers is dwindling.
Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon said she has come close to putting her “teaching cap” back on. It comes as the district has been dealing with absent teachers and shortages.
“I still have my teaching certificate,” said Dr. Talisa Dixon, CCS Superintendent “We’re going in and filling in when appropriate.”
Teachers are also covering for other teachers, oftentimes tripling their workload.
“We’re hearing reports from school districts all across the state, that when you have outbreaks of COVID, particularly with the Omicron variant, a lot of districts are having to transition to remote learning or having to call calamity days because there is just a shortage of essential staff needed to provide in-person instruction,” said Scott DiMauro, president of Ohio Education Association.
On top of teacher shortages, districts are even more desperate for substitute teachers.
“This isn’t a new problem, but we see it especially acutely when there is so little margin for error because of the pandemic,” said DiMauro,
In Ohio, the rules have temporarily changed and all you need is a high school diploma to become a substitute teacher.
“That is not a long-term solution by any stretch of the imagination,” said DiMauro.
DiMauro said while the state is making it easier to become a sub, the bigger problem is declining interest in the field.
“That is because of really challenging working conditions and in a lot of places, inadequate compensation, a lack of support systems,” said DiMauro.
DiMauro said he would like to see more districts use their federal pandemic funding to either help keep teachers or attract substitute teachers. The state has only used about 14 percent of its funding.
“We know we have the shortages just like many other districts in the county and across the United States. But it’s so important for us, that we keep students in class as much as possible,” said Dr. Dixon.
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