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Kansas City-area teachers reflect on challenges amid shortage of substitute teachers

Posted at 9:23 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 23:12:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Teachers and staff in the Kansas City area say they are focused on the importance of keeping kids in school, and the schools open.

But many including the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City say the 2022 semester is going to be a struggle.

“The first word that came to my mind is kind of overwhelmed,” David Price, a third grade teacher at Troost Elementary said.

Price says between testing, learning gaps, staff personal issues and sickness, it’s an overwhelming start to the second semester.

“Everything happening at once, it’s just a perfect storm,” he said.

Jason Roberts, the President of Kansas City Federation of Teachers, says the issue lies in class coverage.

“Right now, there are almost no subs to go around,” he said. “It is requiring our teachers to cover for other teachers that are out and doing a lot of internal subbing because there's a real lack of subs. You may be taking a classroom and dividing it up and adding those kids to your class.”

This is something Price has seen a lot of.

“This year just makes it four-times as difficult because you know if you are gone, you probably won’t have a sub and your class will be split up or taken by other teachers,” he said.

He says it’s a balance between your health and coming to school or not, and adding to other teachers’ classrooms.

“It’s one of those jobs where when you take a day off, its twice as hard where if you just went to work,” Price said

Roberts says to increase staffing numbers, change starts with increasing pay and lightening the load.

“We’re going to really have to see a move toward all hands-on deck,” Roberts said. “That means anybody that works in the district, whether they're a principal, vice-principal and instructional coach, they work at a board of education building for any district, they're going to have to get into these classrooms and start educating children in the absence of a teacher because there are no certified teachers.”

Just a few months ago Missouri Department of Education and Secondary Education pushed for a policy to make substitute teaching qualifications easier.

Roberts says he’s seen no difference and it hasn’t gotten easier to fill staff gaps.