HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- Education leaders are in a mad dash working to get ready for the start of the school year. Among the preparations, school districts statewide still need to hire hundreds of substitute teachers.
Kelly Education Services, which partners with school districts across Florida, says they need to hire more than 100 teachers a week to fill vacancies.
Tina Mosley, the Regional Vice President of Florida’s Division of Kelly Education, says substitute teachers were already in high demand, with fewer college students choosing education as a career.
Now, COVID-19 is making matters worse with some teachers choosing to retire or quit over COVID-19 concerns.
“If this is something that you’ve thought about then maybe, pushed aside, this is the time. This is the opportunity,” Mosley said, adding that they are constantly hiring more substitute teachers.
“We’re in unprecedented times as you know and there’s been a teacher shortage for the last 10 years, which is now leading to a substitute teacher shortage,” she said.
ABC Action News checked with every local school district in Tampa Bay and they all tell us they’re currently hiring subs, though many don’t have a final count on how many they will need as they wait to see how many teachers will report back to the classroom.
Pinellas and Pasco counties, which hire subs through district administration, are planning to assign every school with one or two substitutes to show up daily to their assigned campus to cover any vacancies.
Pinellas County says by having school-based substitutes, it will eliminate the number of new people entering into school buildings. The district also plans to use non-classroom instructional staff, which work for the school or district, to cover vacancies.
Pasco County says their priority subs system will provide for two subs to report daily to each school. Some larger schools will have more than two, according to district public information officer Steve Hegarty.
Hillsborough County Substitute teacher Debi Klimon says she has concerns about returning to school, but she’s committed to returning to the classroom especially to fill in for educators with compromised immune systems.
“I really feel like this year, especially, is going to be making the biggest impact being a substitute teacher,” Klimon explained.
Klimon says to stay safe, she plans on sticking with two to three schools this year and boosting her immune system with vitamins.
“I am concerned about getting the kids to social distance, keep their masks on and trying to determine if this child coughing or sneezing because he has fall allergies or is something else going on?” she said.
Klimon knows this year will provide a lot of challenges, but she says the reward of knowing she’s making a difference is worth it.
“It’s so cool to know you had a part in that building block and stepping stone in their education,” Klimon said with a smile.
Kelly Education is working around the clock to hire substitutes. To apply, click here.