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School districts face substitute shortages amid COVID-19

Substitute shortage

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Some school districts are now struggling with dramatic shortages of substitute teachers, made worse by teachers absent because of COVID-19.

District 11 alone has lost about 70 substitutes, with many giving different reasons as to why they're not coming back this year.

District 11 Spokesperson Devra Ashby believes some of them may not feel safe because of COVID-19. Many substitutes the district has in its pool are retired, putting them in the at-risk age group.

Academy District 20 said they too are experiencing a shortage.

"Our pool is actually larger than it has ever been. However, when we reach out to come in and guest teach with us they're hesitant and there's a little trepidation to teach," said D20 spokesperson Allison Cortez.

She says last week, four high schools were forced to transition into all e-learning, and the district needed at least 250 substitute teachers in one day.

Ashby said schools in D11 have also been forced to shut down, but not just because of exposures.

"A lot of the reasons why schools in our area will go remote is because we just don't have the staff to cover in-person instruction," she said.

With cases in El Paso County on the rise and a lack of available substitutes, we wondered what happens if a teacher gets sick?

"What we have to do is pull from staff most likely within the building," Ashby said.

Both districts want to remind the community schools are doing what they need to abide by public health guidelines.

"We've gotten all of the people who need to be isolated and quarantined out of that building and then we've sanitized and deep cleaned it's actually a very safe building to be in," Cortez said.

The need is so great, both Ashby and Cortez encourage anyone to apply, especially those who are considering a career in education. To be a substitute in Colorado, you must have a bachelor's degree and pass a background check.

To apply visit District 11 and Academy District 20's websites.

Alexis Dominguez

Alexis is a reporter for KRDO and Telemundo Surco. Learn more about Alexis here.



  1. Do you remember when the hardest decision a teacher had to make was what class they were going to focus on teaching? How far we as a nation have fallen when we don’t even teach the full unadulterated factual history anymore, teachers are faced with the real probability of an active shooter event, I can’t even remember when we as a nation paid our teachers and educators what they actually are worth. The reason our teachers are so important is this is our investment of the next generation and the less we spend on focusing the betterment of our next generation only worsens humanity. Now they are having to deal with the real aspect of potentially being forcibly required, by need of payment of bills, to expose themselves, their families, and their community, when it is a unneeded risk of exposure. Our teachers are not trained to deal with medical crisis’s, yet that is exactly what our school board is forcing them to do, with little to no actually medically trained professionals offering on-site additional support.

    Teachers and other front-line educators and support staff, thank you for all the sacrifices you have made. Know most of your community does appreciate you and does support you, and also understand some of us also see that any fault is not on your shoulders, but the shoulders of the administrators and leaders of the department of education, the local school boards, and our elected officials and government administrators.

    United we Stand, Divided we Fall!

    1. I know, blah, blah, blah, its only a 1%, blah, blah, blah rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric. There wouldn’t be the reason to write this article if this problem didn’t exacerbate the already bad circumstances our teachers face. If you can’t see that, or are taking a stance about CO-VID not being all that bad, then perhaps you should go teach, since there is such a shortage and you are clearly not that concerned.

      1. Thanks for starting my reply. Yep 1%, actually less.
        My point is the fear mongering that is going around. The media makes it like if you get the COVID you have a 90% chance of going to the grave. That is far from the truth.
        So you have good teachers who can teach but are so scared in their own ignorance of the virus that they hide in fear. Yet the normal flue is around every year and kills a lot of people also but they never stopped going to work over that(or very few did).

        I seriously know people who are soooo scared and they are not in a venerable demographic. They seriously just don’t know and see all the media and they make it seem like the end of the world is here. It’s not. I am very addicted to math and statistics. Doing the numbers it does not make sense what they preach, yes preach, from the media every day.

        1. Viral I hear you. What my point is this is now turning into an issue about supply and demand more than anything else. Teachers are not wanting to place themselves in a category of higher exposure than the rest of the populace, especially without additional finances and some sort of assurances that they will be ok and not one of the 1%, because we don’t know who could be that 1% and who isn’t. I also understand that there are higher risks of death than this, but those higher risks also already have mitigation plans, vaccines, etc. This doesn’t yet so it really is a low-yield Russian roulette where 1 out of 100 could die. Moreover, if we don’t keep in maintaining and attempting to flatten the curve we could get above our available respirators that are in the hospitals, and if that occurs then the death toll rises more because they don’t have access to the needed equipment to keep them alive and heal them back to health.

          right now there is really very few options on the table

          1 – cancel all mitigations and allow the CO-VID to run rampant and allow those that die to die, and then we attain herd immunity.

          2 – We continue to mitigate and be smart about the recommendations and follow them until a vaccine comes out, then go back to normal.

          3 – We all go in pure isolation without any outside of the house interactions for at least 1 month, possibly longer. This will cause those that have it to get treated or perish, but not spread it and it will eventually die off.

          To me options 1 and 2 don’t really seem viable, which only leaves option 2. But if we don’t all follow the mitigation orders, we keep getting super-spreader instances, and at what point do we say enough is enough. Remember the teachers are only teaching because they enjoy it, because it certainly isn’t the pay or the benefits, and if we don’t take care of them they will start becoming a hard job to fill, just like law enforcement and most other public service careers.

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