Teacher departures leave schools scrambling for substitutes amid coronavirus crisis

With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

Posted: Sep 13, 2020 9:42 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

Several states have seen surges in educators filing for retirement or taking leaves of absence.

The departures are straining staff in places that were dealing with shortages of teachers and substitutes even before the pandemic created an education crisis.

Among those leaving is Kay Orzechowicz, an English teacher at northwest Indiana’s Griffith High School, who at 57 had hoped to teach for a few more years.

But she felt her school’s leadership was not fully committed to ensuring proper social distancing and worried that not enough safety equipment would be provided for students and teachers.

Add the technology requirements and the pressure to record classes on video, and Orzechowicz said it “just wasn’t what I signed up for when I became a teacher.”

“Overall, there was just this utter disrespect for teachers and their lives,” she said. “We’re expected to be going back with so little.” When school leaders said teachers would be “going back in-person, full throttle, that’s when I said, ‘I’m not doing it. No.’”

Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the start of the new school year. It’s unclear how many teachers in the U.S. have become ill with COVID-19, but Mississippi alone reported 604 cases among teachers and staff.

In cases where teachers are exposed to the virus, they could face pressure to return to the classroom.

The Trump administration has declared teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers” in guidance that could give the green light to exempting them from quarantine requirements.

Throughout Indiana, more than 600 teacher retirements have been submitted since July, according to state data.

Although the state gets most of its teacher retirements during the summer, surveys suggest more retirements than usual could happen as the calendar year progresses, said Trish Whitcomb, executive director of the Indiana Retired Teachers Association.

“I’ve gotten more (teachers) calling me back saying, ‘Well, I’m going to go ahead and retire,’” Whitcomb said. “Some still wanted to go back in the classroom, but they didn’t think the risk was worth it. They looked at their grandkids and the life they have, and I think they’re saying, ‘I’m just not going to do it.’”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
Wabash5332104
Jasper532079
Jefferson511297
Ripley500586
Adams482576
Daviess4677114
Scott438974
Greene425196
Wells424888
Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
LaGrange359078
Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
Fountain335760
Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
Orange293664
Jay284645
Franklin265643
Perry265452
Rush262432
Carroll261934
Vermillion258654
Parke231426
Pike229243
Tipton228159
Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
Unassigned0540

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1515838

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1640131696
Cuyahoga1460532459
Hamilton1052061431
Montgomery738951279
Summit616491111
Lucas56212917
Butler51500718
Stark465771064
Lorain35525585
Warren32769377
Mahoning30719693
Clermont28151330
Lake26979448
Delaware24159164
Licking23882294
Trumbull22825561
Fairfield22354247
Greene22289326
Medina22002313
Clark19812354
Richland18559292
Portage17924252
Wood17427224
Allen15967279
Miami15524306
Muskingum14789185
Columbiana14017274
Wayne13755271
Tuscarawas12692311
Marion11957180
Scioto11452162
Pickaway11356142
Erie10867184
Ross10555203
Lawrence9746153
Ashtabula9701204
Hancock9687155
Belmont9287209
Geauga8933157
Jefferson8547199
Huron8380143
Union818859
Washington8085144
Sandusky7807151
Athens776179
Knox7705144
Darke7643158
Seneca7343145
Ashland6945130
Auglaize678699
Shelby6516115
Brown635291
Crawford6261130
Defiance6192105
Mercer614593
Fulton601296
Highland599399
Madison593978
Guernsey589771
Logan587996
Clinton582993
Preble5710125
Putnam5323110
Williams528088
Perry517363
Champaign511573
Jackson508573
Ottawa486286
Coshocton482283
Morrow458158
Pike433467
Fayette428263
Hardin418080
Gallia417267
Adams416695
Van Wert370882
Henry364072
Holmes3624125
Hocking356482
Wyandot322962
Carroll301765
Paulding279447
Meigs264651
Monroe215554
Noble199747
Morgan193933
Harrison181446
Vinton165525
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Hi: 52° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 42°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 32°
Huntington
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 42°
Van Wert
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
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Feels Like: 48°
Showers on tap for Sunday with the chance of a few thunderstorms.
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