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Substitute teacher shortage leads to several district closures next Friday

Boulder Valley School District
Posted at 4:40 PM, Nov 06, 2021

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Students at Boulder Valley School District and Adams 12 Five Star Schools are getting a four-day weekend next week because of staffing shortages.

“When we look at next Friday, that situation is far greater than what we faced for the rest of the semester to date,” BVSD Chief Communications Officer Randy Barber said Saturday.

Thursday is Veterans Day, which is a federal holiday, and students and teachers at both districts have the day off. But the staffing problem happens the day after.

About 486 teachers at BVSD took the day off, and, because of a shortage of substitutes, more than 200 of those spots still needed fill-ins, causing classes that day to be canceled. The district will use the day as a work day for staff members who did not request the day off.

“It’s far more than we can cover with our substitute pool, [and] far more than we could cover with our staff here at the Education Center,” Barber said.

In a typical year, BVSD has a pool of about 900 substitute teachers. The district started this year with only about 300.

“There's a point at which you just can't safely serve students,” Barber said.

In a letter to parents dated Oct. 28, Adams 12 also cites concerns with “the potential lack of staff” to fill absences at its campuses. It’s also struggling to hire substitutes, even though it pays more than BVSD.

According to an online job listing, a licensed guest teacher at Adams 12 makes $180 a day or $22.50 an hour. In comparison, BVSD substitute teachers, excluding Fridays, make $100 a day or $12.50 an hour.

Barber says it’s hard competing not just with other districts but with other industries that are also hoping to hire these gig workers.

“We're all trying to do the same thing. We're all working with essentially the same group of people trying to incentivize them to come to our school districts, which is tough,” he said.

What’s happening next Friday is an anomaly as BVSD doesn’t see this happening again this school year, Barber says, and the district is working with parents who have to make last-minute child-care plans.

“We understand the impact that it has on parents. Our goal as educators is to be in school five days a week, as much as possible, having kids learn. When we have to call a day out of school, that's not something that we take lightly,” Barber said.