Hawaii schools have amid COVID. a lack of substitute teachers



HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaiian public schools are struggling to find replacement teachers amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

Out of an average of 1,200 daily requests for substitute teachers nationwide, nearly 150 remain unanswered, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported, citing data from the state education department. The deficiency occurs even though the department has a pool of 3,200 active substitutes.

Sierra Knight is one of those substitutes. The 67-year-old retired California teacher now lives in Kula, Maui. She has not taken a replacement job that year and, she said, neither have many of her experienced replacement teacher friends.

“You don’t want to be exposed to COVID,” she said.

Knight, who helps moderate a Facebook page for substitute teachers for the department, said many felt the agency had not done a decent job protecting schools from the virus.

According to the Hawaii State Teachers Association, superintendents, principals, and assistant principals have stepped in for the replacement. Educational assistants and other employees who have been withdrawn from their regular duties are also stepping down.

“Ultimately, this year students are losing much-needed lessons,” said Osa Tui Jr., association president. “If there is no substitute, some of our children are either crammed into a classroom or an auditorium, and they are simply looked after by an adult who has to see several classes and does not give any classes.”

In anticipation of recruitment difficulties during the pandemic, the state education council lowered the minimum qualification for class representatives from a bachelor’s degree to a high school diploma.

Despite this, the department’s replacement rate of 87.7% is around 10 percentage points lower than in previous years, according to administrators.

Sean Bacon, deputy superintendent of the department’s talent management office, said his employees are reaching out to other unions, among other things, to find more replacements. They also reached out to UNITE Here Local 5 to see if workers were looking for jobs in the economically troubled tourism sector.

Ultimately, he hopes the problem will decrease as the number of COVID-19 cases on the islands continues to fall and more people are vaccinated. On Monday, Hawaii‘s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases was 115, a 4% decrease from two weeks ago. Nationwide, 71.3% of the population is fully vaccinated.

“Hopefully this will help people feel like they can go back to replacement classes,” he said.


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