Michigan schools facing likely substitute teacher shortage when they reopen

Some full-time teachers might not want to return to classroom due to COVID-19

DETROIT – School districts in Michigan are facing a likely substitute teacher shortage as some full-time teachers might not want to return to the classroom when schools reopen.

Recent college graduates and retirees are being urged to join the fight to educate children this fall, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) creates a shroud of uncertainty.

School administrators say easily 30% of parents responding to various surveys don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to in-person learning. So while school districts largely figure it out for themselves, part of the plan is to keep student enrollment up by offering virtual learning options.

For in-person learning, guidance will include fewer students per classroom. But schools have been trying to shrink class sizes for decades.

Many full-time teachers might not feel comfortable with in-class sessions, which leads to another concern: a shortage of substitute teachers.

“You can’t balance a budget on hope,” Walled Lake Superintendent Kenneth Gutman said.

School officials said they don’t even know what resources they’ll have to try to attract substitute teachers and fill those holes.

Gutman is also the vice president of the Tri-County Alliance, which represents thousands of schools and tens of thousands of students. While there’s so much to be unsure about two months before the start of school, he said we can’t afford to throw away time.

The coronavirus will ultimately decide whether returning to school is viable. School districts are working to put together plans for what comes next. It won’t be perfect by the time fall rolls around, but it will likely be an improvement from the spring. It will be a learning process, even for educators.

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