Schools Are Asking Parents to Work as Substitutes amid Teacher Shortage: 'It Is So Bad'

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The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has left struggling school districts around the country without enough teachers to fill their classrooms.

Despite COVID-19's continued impact on the U.S., with more than 750,000 people becoming infected nearly every day, many schools are attempting to open classrooms and facilitate in-person learning.

Many of the districts have been hit by staffing shortages due to teachers either becoming sick with the virus or outright leaving the profession due to concerns about health risks or other issues, like low pay and their mental health. The situation has become so dire for some districts that they are now asking eligible parents to apply to become substitute teachers.

"Attention Parents: Now hiring certified and eligible non-certified Guest Teachers!" an announcement from Hays Consolidated School District in Texas posted to Facebook on Jan. 6 reads. "Rewarding work in education that fits YOUR schedule!"

On the district's website, they explain non-certified applications must pass one of several courses with at least an 85 percent score to become eligible.

"A substitute 'guest' teacher is responsible for providing instruction, managing the classroom environment, and promoting student learning in the absence of the regular classroom teacher," the district said, adding that substitutes could make between $100 and $150 for shifts.

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Craig Nilles, a paralegal in Minnesota, said he responded to a robocall sent out by the principal of his daughter's school asking for parents to become substitutes.

"It is a unique way to give back and help the school that your children attended," he told NBC News.

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Nilles enjoyed teaching so much that he left his paralegal job and now hopes to become a teacher full-time.

In California, the Palo Alto School District recently launched the "1 Palo Alto" campaign to ask community members and parents to step in as substitutes.

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"People move here for our schools, they love our schools, and they need our schools to stay open," superintendent Don Austin said in a video announcement. "Our biggest challenge is staffing right now, people doing the jobs that we do. We can't keep up, there's no labor pool, no amount of money can solve this issue. We need your help."

"My request is that until the surge passes, we need our community, 1 Palo Alto, to volunteer like never before," Austin continued. "We need help in areas many people don't even know exist."

Officials from the Simi Valley School District in California, located about 350 miles from Palo Alto, told CalMatters that they recently only had enough substitutes to cover about half of the teachers who had contracted COVID-19.

"It's untenable," Superintendent Jason Peplinski told the outlet. "It is so bad."

In Chicago, where the Chicago Public Schools district and the local teachers' union have been involved in a testy debate over how to best return to in-person learning, substitutes are being offered an extra $1,000 a month if they work 15 or more days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 transmission in school settings can be limited if districts commit to prevention protocols.

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