Sarasota schools ask parents to consider substitute teaching as need doubles during omicron wave

School districts in the Bay Area are getting creative as they work through staffing challenges made worse by the recent COVID-19 omicron wave.

In an email to families this week, Sarasota County Public Schools asked parents to consider taking a job as a substitute teacher.

"We have 44,000 students, so reaching out to their parents we felt was a good group of people to potentially bring in to our school district [as subs]", said Allison Foster, Sarasota County Public Schools human resources executive director. "One of the great things about substitute teaching is there's a lot of flexibility, so you can work one day a week, you can work five days a week, you can choose the school where you want to work."

Foster told FOX 13 the number of substitutes needed doubled during the omicron wave.

"Since we've come back from the break with this most recent uptick in cases, we've needed close to 400 [substitute teachers]," she explained.

Hillsborough County Public Schools is facing a similar situation. During their meeting Tuesday, Hillsborough school board members heard about the staffing situation from teachers and from Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association President Rob Kriete.

"The mental health of teachers: we're all falling apart," stated Heidi Glick, a teacher at Alonso High School. "I'm exhausted. I teach five preps. I cover classes when asked, not just in my department, but in the rest of the school."

Kriete told board members that teachers are "losing their minds" and feel over-worked as they fill for other staff members. He told FOX 13 difference in staffing levels now in comparison to pre-pandemic levels is staggering.

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"That's about 3,000 less adults, fewer adults in our schools every single day to help meet the needs of the kids and that is the biggest challenge we've ever had to endure," Kriete said, adding substitutes are desperately needed. "I would say all hands on deck: any parent, any community member that's willing to do it [should do it]."

Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis has said the number of employees out daily might not be quite as high as Kriete indicated, but he agrees that it's something that needs to be addressed every day.

"[Teachers] are all working overtime to be able to cover classes, cover duties, cover responsibilities for their colleagues," Davis said.

Sarasota County Public Schools doesn't require a college or teaching degree to be a sub, although they do help. Pay ranges from $105 to about $150 a day depending on the substitute's education level.