Some Des Moines metro school districts can only fill 50% of absences
Des Moines metro school districts are facing record-high teacher and staff absences — and on some days, they're only able to get 50% of those vacancies filled by substitutes, according to data obtained by Axios.
Driving the news: COVID-19 infections, staff burnout and workforce shortages are resulting in teachers taking more time off now than in past years.
- But at the same time, there's a smaller pool of substitutes for districts to pull from, forcing schools to compete with each other and raise rates to come out on top.
By the numbers: Des Moines schools endured some of the highest unfilled absence percentages. In January and February, about 45% of absences went unfilled.
- In January, 42% of Waukee's staff absences went unfilled.
- Urbandale said 30-40 teachers are out everyday and 25-30% of absences go unfilled.
- Johnston doesn't fill nearly 30% of its absences.
- In Ankeny, it's around 20%.
Of note: West Des Moines did not provide numbers.
The big picture: Iowa school districts are doing everything they can to cover classrooms, from raising substitute teacher pay to even considering reducing the school week to four days.
State of play: In the Des Moines metro, most districts have raised substitute pay rates and many are compensating teachers for using their planning periods to cover classes.
- But as a last resort, districts are resorting to other methods as well.
Zoom in: Waukee and Des Moines schools are having to put students into study hall with supervisors when teachers and substitutes are unavailable.
What's ahead: Ultimately, Iowa needs more people to enter the education profession, said Ryan Wise, dean of education at Drake University and the former head of Iowa's Department of Education.
- Certain bills moving through the Legislature may help, including increasing funding for the Teach Iowa grant and easing requirements to become a paraeducator.
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