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Denver school districts face shortage of substitute teachers

Another challenge for the Denver subway school districts when returning to class is that they cannot find enough substitutes to replace when a teacher is absent.

The shortage existed before this year, but increased during the pandemic – despite districts expanding their supply teacher pool by hiring more. Districts are also experiencing staffing issues in other areas, such as school nurses and bus drivers.

There is no single reason for the shortage, three districts said – some substitutes have taken on other jobs and others fear returning to school because of COVID-19.

As of last week, at least 80 K-12 schools in the state have outbreaks of COVID-19, which have affected at least 126 staff members.

“We have a shortage of substitute teachers this year and it’s infuriated by COVID,” Cherry Creek School District spokesperson Abbe Smith said, adding, “This year, a contributing factor to the shortage is that ‘many of our replacements are retired teachers, and many of them have chosen not to return.

During this time of the school year, the Douglas County School District is generally able to fill between 90% and 100% of teacher absences with a replacement. But last week the district was only able to fill 75% and 85% of absences despite a pool of more than 1,000 substitutes, spokeswoman Paula Hans said in an email.