The Bartlesville Public School District is opening its pool of substitute teachers to state employees amid pandemic-related staffing shortages that caused the district to shift to virtual learning.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the Oklahoma Guest Educator Initiative, a program made through executive order allowing state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers in local schools without losing employment, pay or benefits.
The initiative is part of an effort to ease statewide shortages of teachers and substitutes caused by the ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases and spread of the Omicron variant.
The district has faced ongoing staffing shortages for this reason. Even Superintendent Chuck McCauley stepped in to teach a second grade class on Jan. 13.
The district announced Monday that the high school and middle schools would do virtual learning Tuesday through Friday and the elementary schools from Wednesday through Friday.
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Granger Meador, executive director of technology and communications, said the district is hoping to have volunteers with the Guest Educator Initiative in classrooms by Monday.
“We’ve had some interest from a judge and some law enforcement so far,” Meador said.
The guest educators will not be paid, but will otherwise be treated as part of the certified substitute pool — assigned to classes as needed and provided a lesson plan by the absent teacher, he said.
To be eligible for the program, volunteers need to undergo a background check and drug test. Those interested in the program can call the Education Service Center at 918-336-8600 to become involved, Meador said.
“We’re probably expanding that to other entities, like corporate entities, as time goes by, but we’re getting it started with those state people who sometimes already have a background check in place, so we can get them in the classroom a lot faster,” Meador said.
Due to the ongoing lack of substitutes, the Board of Education voted Monday to extend certified substitute teacher pay for district employees helping to cover classrooms.
Non-classroom certified district staff will receive the full certified substitute pay of $90 for covering a full day of class. Elementary school teachers dividing a class for a full day will split the $90 rate and other teachers will receive $15 per class period they cover.
As of Thursday, the district had 28 staff in isolation and 16 in quarantine, leaving the district down 6.2% of total staff. The same day, 4.9% of the district’s student population was in isolation or quarantine.
In an announcement about the Oklahoma Guest Educator Initiative, State Chamber of Commerce President Chad Warmington said while businesses are themselves experiencing a workforce shortage, he hopes the program will help schools stay open.
“We hope businesses are able to partner with their local districts and encourage available employees, who are healthy and willing, to volunteer as substitute teachers. It's good for the community, good for kids and good for business,” Warmington said.
This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Bartlesville school district accepting guest educators amid shortage