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As school year starts, finding willing substitutes proving to be a challenge

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ZACHARY - As school systems grapple with detecting and subsequently containing COVID-19 in classrooms, Zachary Community Schools is facing staffing concerns even before the year begins. With teachers having to stay home, either because of a positive test result or close contact that could have led to exposure, substitutes are going to be called on to step in.

"We have been signing up more substitutes and trying to recruit more," superintendent, Scott Devillier said. "We have a pretty decent list now."

Last Thursday, the Zachary School Board voted to delay the start of school from Aug. 10 until Aug. 17. At that meeting, Devillier noted staffing issues were already playing out.

"The biggest concern is that we make sure we have somebody in that classroom," Devillier said last week. "Now not every classroom is going to have a teacher. There will probably be a number of substitutes."

At that time, 19 Zachary teachers were in quarantine, after seven tested positive for the coronavirus and another 12 had come in close contact, possibly being exposed. Devillier did not have an update number Wednesday but said some substitutes would be needed to fill those classrooms on the first day of school.

"We will need a few substitutes for sure because I think we will still have a couple of folks still quarantined."

But even with a list of substitutes that have signed on, Devillier says they aren't guaranteed to fill vacancies that pop up.

"Just because you have a list of substitutes doesn't mean that they're going to take the job when you call, Devillier said. "A lot of our substitutes tend to be retired teachers or older people. And of course, in this pandemic, there's a lot of nervousness."

Devillier says some substitute candidates have asked to be removed from the list completely, while others are holding off on accepting any jobs. That hesitancy led Devillier to invite anyone willing to sub to apply last week. Minutes after that plea, one Zachary parent, with a full-time job outside of the school system, took that request to heart.

"You said that we need subs," that parent said during a public comment period. "My application is in. I'll gladly do school nurse or fill in as a teacher, whatever you need."

While Devillier says Zachary will be covered on Monday and for the time being, he understands finding substitutes may be a challenge they face the entire school year.

Spokeswomen for Livingston Parish Schools and Ascension Parish Schools said there were no current concerns with finding substitutes, if necessary, for the respective districts.


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