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Local News

Will County school districts try to maintain enough substitute teachers amid pandemic

Several students work on their computers during chemistry class in October at A. Vito Martinez Middle School in Romeoville.
Several students work on their computers during chemistry class in October at A. Vito Martinez Middle School in Romeoville.

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Among the many uncertainties Will County area school districts face as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic is maintaining an adequate substitute teacher pool.

Even as some districts chose to begin the year with fully remote learning because of rising COVID-19 cases, officials say they consider staffing a big concern.

Last week, Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 spokesman Tom Hernandez said that while the district typically has about 600 substitute teachers in its pool this time of the year, it currently had only about 150.

“That’s low,” Hernandez said.

Still, Hernandez said that as districts go fully remote to start the year, there is “not going to be an immediate need” for substitute teachers.

“We know realistically there are teachers who won’t feel comfortable coming back,” Hernandez said.

Joliet Township High School District 204 Superintendent Karla Guseman said in a statement that maintaining enough substitute teachers is “a huge concern for both remote and in-person instruction.” She added the district is working to expand its pool in anticipation of a shortage of substitute teachers.

“This is uncharted territory for all schools,” Guseman said in the statement.

JTHS spokeswoman Kristine Schlismann said the district has about 147 active substitute teachers. The district will begin the school year with remote learning.

Joliet Public Schools District 86 said it’s confirmed that about 75 substitute teachers will return for the upcoming year. Superintendent Theresa Rouse said in a statement that the district has about 150 substitute teachers in its database, but she’s looking for more, especially during the pandemic.

Lockport Township High School District 205 spokeswoman Janine Wheeler said in a statement that the district’s protocol is to maintain a pool of about 10% of its staff. Historically, the pool has typically been between 15 and 20%, although she added that the district intends to hire more substitute teachers to replace those who are not planning to return.

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