Re-2 school district in Garfield County asks paraprofessionals to fill substitute teaching roles |

Re-2 school district in Garfield County asks paraprofessionals to fill substitute teaching roles

Re-2 school district in Garfield County asks paraprofessionals to fill substitute teaching roles

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Garfield County School District Re-2 has paid for one-year substitute teaching licenses for their paraprofessionals amid a substitute teacher shortage within the district, an administrator said Tuesday.

“Most every building now, most of their paraprofessionals are now certified as a substitute in the state of Colorado so they can help with those day-to-day needs,” said director of human resources Kayla Reece.

Reece said, since implementing the strategy in October, 18 paraprofessionals have been certified within Re-2. This means they’re legally eligible to fill in for teachers who are either sick or absent.

“They’ve been going above and beyond,” Reece said of the paraprofessionals. “Not only are they helping cover the class while we have teachers out… they are actually legitimately teaching those lessons that have been planned every day.”

“Not only are they fulfilling their para requirements that they were hired to do,” Reece added, “they are actually in there teaching a curriculum every day — obviously based on what the teacher has provided, of course.”

But, while the district can use paraprofessionals to perform substitute duties on an interim basis, there’s still the question of hiring a sustainable number of traditional substitutes.

Based on a presentation made to the school board in late October, the district had the following “fill rate” – this is the number substitutes allocated to fill teacher absences. To conclude September, Re-2 had 74% fill rate. By the end of October, that number dropped down to 70%.

In October alone, the district needed to fill 602 vacant spots out of 722 total teacher absences. Of those 602 vacant spots, 182 went unfilled.

Also as of late October, seven of 33 allocated permanent and long-term substitute positions were unfilled. Meanwhile, the district had 24 day-to-day, 19 permanent and eight long-term substitute teachers, while 11 of 18 non-district employees have become substitute licensed.

Between October and now, however, the district has hired 10 new substitute positions.

“Ten’s a whole lot better than it was before,” said Theresa Hamilton, the district’s director of communications and grants.

And, when other resources are exhausted, full-time teachers have also stepped up to the plate, Hamilton noted. Using whatever open slot they have in their schedule – planning periods, for example – they also fill in for any absent instructors.

“Teachers cover for one another,” Hamilton said. “And if they end up giving up their planning (period), they can make some additional money by picking up the additional teaching responsibilities.”

In response to the shortage, the district has increased substitute teacher pay by more than half of the standard rate for permanent, long-term and day-to-day substitutes. Permanent and long-term subs increased from $130 to $205 per day. Day-to-day substitutes’ pay increased from $110 to $185 per day.

And, telling by the current situation, the district will take as many substitute teachers “as we can get,” Hamilton said.

For Rifle High School alone, 27% of teachers were reported to be absent this week, with “multiple teachers out while waiting on COVID test results,” according to a news release Monday night. In addition, 10% of RHS students are currently in quarantine while 30% were absent as of Monday.

For Highland Elementary School, 28% of teaching staff has been out of the building due to quarantine, isolation of pre-arranged absences, according to a previous news release sent out Sunday.

In response, all Rifle schools have pivoted to online learning until Nov. 30.

With that, Reece was asked what amount of substitutes are needed to sustain daily operations.

“There’s a certain quota in a normal year that it takes to run our building, but this is anything less than a normal year,” she said. “And the more staff members that we do have go out, the more substitutes that we need. It’s a tricky question to answer.”

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