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Alberta facing high demand for substitute teachers as COVID-19 cases in schools grow

Stock image of a classroom. (CREDIT: iStock)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – With COVID-19 cases rising in schools there have been issues getting substitute teachers filling vacant spaces with some staff forced into isolation.

According to the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), there has been higher demand than normal this year for substitute teachers and there may be some concerns about the risk of them contracting COVID-19 when in a school.

“As COVID cases are presenting in schools, it’s not just one teacher who is being asked to self-isolate, it can be several teachers, up to a dozen teachers,” said ATA President Jason Schilling. “That has put a lot of pressures on our substitute teachers to fill in those calls.”

This comes as at least three Calgary schools have had to move classes online due to a staff shortage.

On Tuesday, Nelson Mandela High School said all grade 10 and 11 classes were heading online following several positive cases. Willow Park School made the same move for its grade 8 students while grade 12 students at John Diefenbaker school are also online.

According to Support Our Students Alberta (SOS), 42 schools in the province have had to close due to COVID-19, with 133 currently in outbreak status.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) reported just over 1,000 active cases in schools as of Monday.

Schilling said the situation many schools are facing is added stress, especially when a substitute can’t be found.

“I’ve talked to teachers across the province and principals specifically are unable to fill substitute needs for schools and then teachers and principals in those buildings are having to cover off those periods that are being missed and so they’re losing prep time to cover for other teachers.”

Schilling said substitute teachers don’t have the same health benefits as full-time teachers which adds to the concerns.