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COURTESY WOKANDAPIX/PIXABAY
School districts are experiencing trouble finding substitute teachers, as many full-time staffers apply for leave amid the pandemic.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

While other school districts have reported that the COVID-19 outbreak has reduced the pool of substitute teachers, Montclair does not have a shortage, officials say. 

Tenafly, Wayne and other districts throughout the state are reporting a shortage of substitutes. The main reason given is health and safety concerns during the pandemic, officials said.   

Montclair, however, had 200 substitute teachers employed as of Sept. 11, Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said.

This number is adequate for our needs. We have not experienced a deficiency in this area,” Ponds said. 

The pandemic has led to worries that school districts will not be able to have enough teaching staff, both full-time and substitute, to reopen properly. 

At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, 34 Montclair teachers and staff retired, up from 28 at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. In addition, at least seven teachers have announced their resignations, and six have filed for leave for the 2020-2021 school year, including one teacher. The leave reasons include maternity leave, personal leave and military leave.

Since July 20, the district has approved the hiring of nine long-term substitutes to take the place of regular staff members on leave.  

The district has openings for 18 teaching positions: nine at Montclair High School, four at the elementary schools and five at the middle schools. 

Montclair has five job postings on its website for substitute positions, but only one is for a teacher. The other four are for a bus driver, custodian, nurse and secretary. 

A substitute teacher must either be a credentialed teacher in the state of New Jersey or have attained 60 credit hours from an accredited university, and also passed a background check. 

Other districts

A lack of teachers has led some districts to postpone in-person reopening and switch to online learning for the start of the school year. 

The Tenafly Education Association issued a statement on Aug. 27 citing air quality as a reason why the schools would not reopen for in-person instruction at the start of the school year. At least 81 teachers in that district have requested leave as of Sept. 11, according to media reports. 

Bloomfield school officials announced on Aug. 18 that their schools would have to start the school year with all-virtual learning due to a lack of sufficient instructional staff, and concerns that the schools would have to quickly shut down again in the fall if there was another outbreak, even if it were an isolated transmission. 

On Aug. 27, Cedar Grove Superintendent Anthony Grosso, formerly the principal at Montclair High School, announced that since Cedar Grove declared its hybrid learning plan the district had an influx of teachers requesting leave. 

“The impact of these requests has put a strain on our ability to accommodate the requests and provide coverage for staff members with substitute staff,” Grosso said in a statement on the district’s website. The district has switched to remote-only instruction to start the school year.

The Jefferson school district in Morris County put out a call for parents and other community members to act as substitutes when the district got very few responses to job postings for substitute teachers. Nineteen full-time staff members were approved for COVID-19 medical accommodations, and another 17 were on non-COVID-19 medical leaves of absence.

“There have been very few, in some cases no applicants, to fill vacant positions. The governor’s executive order, Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), entitles staff faced with significant child care issues up to 12 weeks of leave; Jefferson currently has 13 FFCRA requests,” Superintendent Jeanne Howe said in a statement posted on the Jefferson website. 

The Wayne Education Association declared a vote of no confidence in that district’s Board of Education over the district’s decision to follow a hybrid learning model.