ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – As of last week, there have been 37 staff members in St. Johns County that have either tested positive or been asked to quarantine due to close contact with a positive case.
That has led to concerns that the loss of teachers and staff could result in a lack of available teachers in the school district, but a district spokesperson told News4Jax on Thursday there is no shortage of substitute teachers to go around.
“We have a large sub pool and just trained 30 more and have 30 more to be trained next week,” district spokeswoman Christina Langston said.
The district said there are 720 substitute teachers in its substitute teacher pool as of Thursday. (It is important to note that substitute teacher positions are “at-will as needed workers,” meaning teachers sign up for days they want to teach and are not assigned.)
There were 644 substitute teachers in the pool in October of last year.
The school district tried to prepare for any staffing issues from day one when it assigned at least one permanent substitute teacher to every school to start the school year. Some schools got more than one.
St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson has said that maintaining enough substitute teachers will be an important issue this school year during the pandemic.
“It’s not just a matter of having a pool of substitute teachers, we work hard to continue to regenerate that pool,” Forson said.
President of the St. Johns County teachers union said that almost one-third of substitute teachers heading into the year were over the age of 65.
“So they’re automatically in that high-risk category, and even if they’re not, there might just be that feeling, I just don’t want to return to the brick-and-mortar buildings,” said SJEA President Michelle Dillon this summer. “But we need them more than ever, as we move forward in a scenario where teachers will get this virus, they will get sick and have to quarantine.”
The hourly rate for substitute teachers in the district is $15. The district raised the rate of pay from $12 an hour last year.