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'Gravely concerned': Teachers union worries about shortage of substitute teachers during pandemic

Last Updated Oct 2, 2020 at 7:41 am MDT

(CREDIT: Pixabay)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – As we enter the second month of the school year, it seems absences are higher than in normal years, and there’s an increase in demand for substitute teachers.

According to the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), several substitute teachers had to opt-out of the sub-pool this year as they’re contract workers with no health benefits and are scared to get sick,

President of the ATA, Jason Schilling, explains there’s a smaller pool of substitute teachers this year due to the pandemic, and as more teachers call in sick with COVID-19 symptoms, it’s putting more pressure on other staff members.

“We definitely need to have a conversation about how to do this because I’m gravely concerned about what this means for the sustainability of the school year.”

WATCH: Parents, teachers share concerns about Alberta schools reopening

He said he recently spoke with a friend whose school had eight teachers out in a single day as they had to self-isolate.

As the winter months approach, Schilling worries this situation could get worse.

“As we move forward into the remaining school months and as we get into the winter, this problem is only going to be exacerbated, it’s only going to be highlighted and amplified because as more people become symptomatic, we’re going to have a greater need for substitute teachers.”

The ATA is asking the provincial government should provide extra funding to school boards so they can contract more substitute teachers and have some sort of a safety net if full-time teachers have to call in sick.

“That gives the substitute income security and benefits as well,” said Schilling.

This comes as the ATA released the findings of its latest pandemic pulse survey.


According to the survey, over 90 per cent of teachers said they were stressed and fatigued while 91 per cent say they’re battling anxiety.

Issues surrounding class size continue to mount for many teachers with one-in-four having to teach a class with more than 30 students.

The survey also found that 84 per cent of teachers don’t receive a COVID-19 screening checklist before class starts and 50 per cent said social distancing is not being followed.