Pulaski County fills substitute teacher need

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 10:28 PM EST
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PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ) - The district is gearing up to move back to five days a week in the classroom, but that requires help from extra substitute teachers.

Just before the holidays, Pulaski County Public Schools moved completely virtual due to a lack of substitutes. At that time Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said there was a severe shortage of subs.

“I don’t think anyone realized how critical it got,” Siers said.

Typically, there are more than 100 in the district, but the threat of coronavirus has kept them away this school year. The district created a standby list—adding everyone who can teach who doesn’t have an assigned class.

“If we don’t have enough subs and we have to call them to go in and cover for an hour or two or for the full day, they can go in and cover,” Siers said.

The superintendent then reached out to local governments for more help. County employees jumped on board immediately and have gone through the training to help out because they say they want to keep kids in the classroom.

“It’s really about consistency and stabilizing our local economy,” County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said. “The community has a need for our kids to get back to school, mainly because it’s in their best interest and it’s healthy for them, but also their parents need to get back to work.”

Parks and Activities Coordinator Shay Dunnigan was also interested in helping out because his wife is a teacher in the district.

“It just was the right thing to do at the right time and it was exactly what our community needed,” Dunnigan said.

About a dozen county employees said they are answering a call to serve and are ready to step up when they are needed.

“We hope they never have to call us because that means that they have enough supply of substitutes, but if and when we’re needed, we’re looking forward to helping out wherever we can,” Sweet said.

The Board of Supervisors agreed if departments can sustain themselves for the day, staff can take that day to be in a classroom instead of their typical day jobs, noting a value added benefit into the school system.

“It’s Pulaski County, it’s what we do,” Dunnigan said. “We help one another when we can and I’m glad the county administration allows us to be able to step in when we can.”

Siers said the district is also incentivizing teachers in the building to cover periods during their planning periods. They then, in turn, receive an added paycheck bonus for doing so.

“We understand that having our kids in school is crucial to our community and we’re extremely appreciative that some of the folks at the county administration office felt strongly enough about it that they were willing to put themselves out there and be part of the solution,” Siers said.

The district moves from four days in person per week to five starting Monday, March 15.

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