‘Tis the season to be out sick, but as teachers call out sick, school districts are scrambling to find substitutes, and in Boston there are not nearly enough.
Michael Maguire, a teacher at Boston Latin Academy, said it used to happen every so often, when they did not have enough substitutes, but since the pandemic, it is happening almost daily. He and other teachers are giving up their free periods in order to help cover classes. Everyone from guidance counselors to front office staff are standing in as substitutes.
“The situation really is at a breaking point,” Maguire said.
According to Boston Public Schools, there are close to 250 substitute requests across the district and most of them are for long-term substitutes. They never found one to cover Liz Hughes’ daughters’ class. She missed out on six weeks of curriculum in her Chinese foreign language class before her teacher came back.
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“There really was a gap where they weren’t learning anything. They were making progress and doing homework and then for six weeks they didn’t so they had to start from the beginning,” Hughes said.
This issue is not a new problem. Earlier this year, the then Boston superintendent covered a class to highlight the shortage. Since then the district has increased the pay for substitutes and streamlined the application process, but they are still coming up short.
Maguire said it is time to get creative.
“To people who are studying to become teachers, could we work something out where they substitute teach here and get college credit? Businesses could you let your people go for a day? We’ve got so many resources in our city, if you could come in for one day and help us out, it would mean everything,” Maguire said.
Boston Public Schools has launched a website to help with hiring: teachboston.org. They are encouraging anyone interested to apply. The district also released the following statement:
“BPS is committed to hiring the most-qualified teachers possible to educate the next generation of leaders while building a robust BPS community. We've already hired more than double the number of teachers as we did during this time last school year. If anyone in our community would like to join the BPS family or knows someone who would, please visit teachboston.org to make a real difference in the lives of countless students, as well as serve your community.”