Demand for substitute teachers rising amid COVID-19 pandemic

BISMARCK (AP) — The need for substitute teachers in the Bismarck Public School districts has pressingly increased this year due to coronavirus-related teacher absences.

The demand is mainly because of all the coronavirus close contacts that have to quarantine as a preventive measure, according to Stacey Geiger, Bismarck Public Schools human resources director. Close contacts are defined as people who spend 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person infected with COVID-19.

Many substitute teachers are shared between the Bismarck and Mandan school districts, and while the roster of substitute teachers is “about the same” as last year, the need for them is higher.

The Bismarck district has so far hired 55 “long-term” substitutes this year and has the funding to hire 11 more, but “we just can’t find them right now,” Bismarck Superintendent Jason Hornbacher said during a school board meeting.

The long-term substitutes are designated to a particular school and can step into any classroom as needed on a daily basis.

Certain substitutes could not previously work for more than 10 consecutives days but Gov. Doug Burgum recently signed an executive order to eliminate that limit helping school districts by allowing a substitute to cover the entirety of a teacher’s 14-day quarantine period.

As of Sunday, Bismarck Public Schools has identified 16 students and 10 staff members who had tested positive for COVID-19, with another 203 students and 30 staff members in quarantine as close contacts.