COOLIDGE — Like many school districts in Arizona, Coolidge is experiencing a teacher shortage but not exactly the way one might think.
The Coolidge Unified School District has been fully staffed in the classrooms since in-school learning began Sept. 14 on the hybrid format, unlike some schools, a survey last week indicated, that are unable to fill 28% of their vacancies.
In Coolidge, the problem is a scarcity of substitute teachers. About half as many are working as compared to last year, Superintendent Charie Wallace said.
So far this year, the district has had as few as eight subs but no more than 10. Last year the pool had a pretty full complement of 17.
Wallace places the blame on COVID-19 fears.
“Yes, it is a COVID issue,” she said Tuesday via email. “We have less subs than in previous years and more absences from our employees. If they are exposed, they need to be out until tested or sometimes even quarantined. Studies are predicting schools could have 30% of their workforce out this year at any given time.”
Coolidge’s teaching staff is in the midst of a shuffle of sorts to cover teacherless classrooms. In some cases, principals and assistant principals are filling the gaps when needed, Wallace said.
“Because class sizes are so low due to hybrid learning, teachers and administrators have handled the subs,” Wallace noted.
Students are dealing with matters well, Wallace said, but the lowest grade levels are most critical and those students do not adapt well to sudden changes.
“It is more critical at the younger level because they depend on routines and procedures plus they cannot work independently as well as the older students,” Wallace said.