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'I think it’s going to get worse:' Coronavirus increases substitute teacher shortages across Idaho

Many Idaho school districts are in immediate need of substitute teachers.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — School districts across Idaho are seeing substitute teacher shortages due to health concerns around the pandemic.

The Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls is the fourth-largest school district in Idaho, and the largest outside the Treasure Valley, right behind West Ada, Boise, and Nampa.

According to Bonneville Schools District's substitute placement clerk  Nancy Peterson, the school district has 600 teachers and only 150 substitutes, when they should have at least 200 subs.

COVID-19 worries have made many substitute teachers in the Bonneville School District step away from their jobs in 2020, she said.

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“They just did not want to be in the schools, or they’re keeping their kids at home and they’re doing homeschooling with them and they just couldn’t be a substitute in the district,” Peterson said.

The Idaho Education Association said substitute shortages are a state-wide problem.

“It’s always been a problem across the state. If you look back in previous years, every district that I’ve talked to has had a problem filling jobs with substitutes,” Layne McInelly said, IEA president. "When we’re in a pandemic, it’s only going to make it worse.”

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Bonneville is doing in-person learning four days out of the week, so the need for substitutes is pretty substantial. but in the Treasure Valley things are a little different due to online learning settings.

The Boise School District is not currently dealing with any shortages because students are still doing online learning, district spokesman Dan Hollar said. he added that the district uses "classified staff" to fill teacher vacancies.

Finding substitute teachers in the West Ada School District is always a challenge,  district spokeswoman Char Jackson said. But Jackson said the district is working to ease that strain by creating an "auxiliary pool" of substitutes that provides the instructors with health benefits under the condition they are available every day.

RELATED: Boise School District to begin 'phased plan' for in-person classes

The Nampa School District currently has 265 substitutes on standby, and needs 300 to be at capacity, but according to spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck, they have over 100 pending applications.

Unlike Nampa, the Bonneville School District is hoping for more applications.

“I would hope it’s going to get better, but I think it’s going to get worse," Peterson said.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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