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Availability of substitute teachers a concern

WHEELING — When teachers call off in Ohio County Schools this school year, it might not be easy for administrators to replace them in the classroom.

Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said a lack of available substitute teachers might be the school district’s biggest concern as it looks to begin a school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve polled our substitutes, and less than half said they would work — and that was three weeks ago,” he said. “As we get closer, I don’t know if that number will go up on down.”

The school district has a list of 185 substitute teachers they can call out to replace an absent teacher. A recent polling of these teachers indicated just 75 would be willing to work if called out after the start of school, according to Jones.

Many substitutes are retired teachers who are in “a more dangerous bracket” when it comes to COVID-19, he said. Some substitute teachers who are recent college graduates already have been hired for the upcoming school year.

“That’s going to be our biggest issue in my opinion with everything — staffing,” Jones said. “As we move forward, there could be a lack of substitutes, and (full-time) teachers who can’t come or take leave. However this all plays out, it is going to put us in a predicament.

“We can have some teachers covering classes and those kind of things in a building, but there’s only so much of that you can do before it is unsafe to open a building if you don’t have the right personnel. We’re not there yet, but we’ll see as we move forward.”

He isn’t certain yet how many full-time teachers have indicated they won’t return to the classroom this fall.

“If there are teachers who think they are not able to work, or they think it is unsafe, there are procedures and a process they can follow where they have some options they can work through with our (human resources), the health department, myself and (attendance director) Amy Minch. We’ll work through those options with individual people, and we’re working through that as we speak.”

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