NEWCOMERSTOWN, Ohio — It all started with one positive COVID test.
"I’m sure this won’t be the first time this happens or the last, or the first district this will happen to,” said Newcomerstown School District superintendent Jeff Staggs.
Staggs said one of his high school student-athletes contracted the virus.
"Because of contract tracing, we had staff members that were quarantined along with other students,” he said.
He needed substitute teachers to fill the gaps, but Staggs said he doesn’t have enough because of a shortage.
He says he was forced to temporarily make the entire high school return to remote learning for the rest of this week and possibly next week.
"My other three buildings that are in session I still need, I can’t use all my subs up because a likelihood of a normal week of having different people out, so I took that also into the decision,” said Staggs.
Rachel Wixey & Associates recruits and schedules the substitutes for The Newcomerstown school district.
A representative from the agency acknowledges the sub shortage and says they had a huge decline throughout the summer of people willing to become substitutes, but now that’s starting to turn around. As soon as they can get folks on-boarded, they are hoping things will level out.
“Everyone in real-time is just learning and adjusting and doing their best,” said Nekiesha Taylor, their director of communications.
"We had a substitute shortage before the pandemic started; it is even more acute now,” said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association.
DiMauro says throughout the state, the shortage is still a huge problem but not the only issue.
"We hope that politicians can get their act together because the substitute shortage combined with the need for materials and supplies and technology and new regular staffing just really is putting tremendous financial pressure on schools,” said DiMauro.
Staggs is reminding folks there’s no outbreak in the district and as soon as they can get back to in-person classes at the high school they will.
"This is our new reality, and we’ve got to make the best of it,” said Staggs. "We’ve got to keep kids safe, staff safe and give them the education.”
If you’d like more information on how to become a substitute teacher with Rachel Wixey & Associates, click here.