By KATHY HARRELSON for the White Street Journal
CARY — Substitute teachers in Wake County are getting a temporary pay increase.
COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of the need for substitutes – both in person and virtual, with 825 teacher absences in the last two weeks of December reported on an average day. There were 256 teachers reassigned to meet some of that demand. The December request for substitutes — typically made by teachers — was double that of October’s.
There are about 3,000 substitutes eligible to accept jobs day-by-day or long-term. Wake County’s Board of Education, earlier this week, recognized how COVID-19 has decreased availability and sub willingness to take assignments.
In response, the BOE boosted pay to those subs who are willing to take on more jobs. The boost is effective through the end of the school year, according to the Human Resource Office, Wake County Schools.
Some schools keep a substitute list and contact them directly based on need each day. Wake Forest Middle School, for example, is soliciting a flex sub to cover needs throughout the rest of the year.
Subs also pick up jobs at their discretion through a county listing on “Aesop.” Since COVID-19, the availability of jobs of the network have gone from several hundred a day to just a handful, halting subs from working each school day, with thousands competing for a few posted jobs.
There are currently no jobs on the network listed beyond February.
School board members passed the temporary financial incentive 7-1 on Tuesday. The increase ranges from $100 to $425 a month, depending on how many days teachers work.
The new pay schedule is:
• Substitutes who work at least five full days in a calendar month will receive $100 of additional pay each month.
• Substitutes who work at least 10 full days in a calendar month will receive $250 of additional pay each month.
• Substitutes who work at least 14 full days in a calendar month will receive $425 each month.
Substitutes who are not certified currently receive $80 for a job assignment; certified teachers/retired teachers receive $110.
Bonuses will be paid a month after they are earned, for example, a bonus earned in January will be in the last paycheck of the month in February. Substitutes are paid every two weeks.
The school district has also launched a new recruitment campaign for substitute teachers with the theme: “We need you. They need you.”
A survey was sent out to the majority of substitutes just before Christmas about picking up shifts for the spring semester. The survey gauged the substitute’s concerns about contracted COVID-19 while teaching. Of the more than 1,400 responses, 958 substitutes said they are willing and available to pick up shifts beginning in January, while 506 said they are not picking up substitute jobs.
About 450 substitutes said they would begin picking up jobs when they received the coronavirus vaccine; 443 said they are picking up jobs and would continue to do so.
The responses were due back to Human Resources by Jan. 7.
“There is just a general need when teachers are absent, but often, during a pandemic, you may have teachers who need to quarantine for a period of time,” A.J. Muttillo, assistant superintendent for human resources, said to the board. “We are following health protocols as strictly as we can, and we want folks to stay home when they are not well. … That means we need folks who are well to come in and fill that need.”
In a meeting on Dec. 15, the board agreed that all K-12 students should stay in all-remote learning until at least Jan. 15 because of the staffing shortages. The current plan for the spring semester, which begins in mid-January, would bring pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students back to full-time, in-person instruction, unless parents refuse.
Middle school students would stay in a three-week rotation, with one week in the classroom and two weeks in remote learning, and high school students would transition into a similar mix of remote and in-person learning.
Today, Jan 8, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the second day in a row on which more than 10,000 cases were reported. On Friday, a record number of cases in one day was reported at 10,398. The second all-time high was reported today at 10,028. DHSS reported today N.C. total cases at 602,774; there were 3,964 people hospitalized with COVID-19.