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Franklin County: Juggling a pandemic and substitutes to cover classes

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Posted at 10:27 PM, Jan 12, 2022

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Before the pandemic, schools already had a hard time coping with the substitute teacher shortage.

When you factor in the possibility of teacher call-outs because of being sick or in quarantine, the issue becomes magnified.

"There are many days where we do not have enough to cover classrooms," said Jennifer Perkins back in August 2021. Perkins is the human resources director for the Franklin County Schools.

At the beginning of the school year, they had 22 substitutes. One of the things they were focused on was how they would cope with such a shortage in the pandemic.

"We have about 86 substitutes that we utilize in Franklin County," Perkins said Wednesday. "The problem is they're not picking up the jobs."

Perkins says it's reassuring they aren't dealing with as much of a sub shortage as they were in August. In the meantime, many retired teachers don't want to risk their health and safety. Still, though, the schools are finding ways to manage.

"Our principals really work with using some of their support staff in the buildings to help cover their classes," Perkins said.

According to attendance records from Franklin County Schools regarding the ongoing needs, they had 61 call-offs where subs were needed on Monday. Thirty-six substitutes helped to fill the gap, but they still had 25 unfilled. On Tuesday, they needed 58 substitutes, but only 33 picked up work, leaving another 25 classes unfilled. On Wednesday, 45 subs were needed, 31 filled in, and the schools still needed options for 14 classes.

These numbers are where a substitute was requested, according to administrators.

In these cases, other staff members in the schools are able to fill classes when there aren't enough substitutes.

"We have had shortages all year long," said Tracey Cline, principal at Westridge Elementary School. "Two to three a day."

Cline has covered classes herself due to teacher absences.

"Since we've been back in January, it has been a bit worse," Cline said.

"Everybody is all hands on deck."

Cline says she's appreciative of her teachers and the substitutes. For what happens down the road, it's tough to plan.

"I'm not sure what's to come," Cline said. "I don't know if anybody can anticipate it, but yes, there's always that concern that it's going to get worse."

Perkins says they have worked to bring on student teachers to become substitutes to fill the gap.

"We'll be in contact with the student teachers that we have from the University of Kentucky again to get them added to the list as well, and that's if they choose," Perkins said.

As far as attendance goes, Perkins says about 89% of students were in class on Wednesday.