Search for substitutes before school year begins

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Levi LaPlant spends a lot of time on the playground in the summer, just as he did with his mother Tuesday morning. But, with weeks left to go until school starts, he’s already excited to return to the classroom. A lot of school districts are ready, too, though many part time positions are still open.

“I do not like when there’s not enough subs and I know that at my daughter’s school they would put two classrooms together,” said Levi’s mother, Chelsea. “I hate when they do that because we have 60 kids instead of 30.”

School districts don’t like it either, several schools in Sedgwick County were part of a job fair last month where candidates could come in to talk about part-time positions.

Wichita Public Schools said most of their full-time positions are filled, far more this year than in recent year’s past. Other districts said something similar. But when it comes to part time positions, it’s a different matter. Especially substitutes.

So that district in particular has launched an ad campaign, with spots on the radio, videos featured at InTrust and posted on the internet.

USD 259’s director of human resources said it’s especially a challenge, when a lot of teachers call in at once.

“In 2015, we had what we called the Garth Brooks effect,” said Shannon Krysl, the Chief HR Officer for Wichita Public Schools. “Where we hit 500 absences in a day. This last year, we had 23 days of that many or more absences.”

The absences are typically for flu or other emergencies rather than a country music concert, but in recent years the district has started to review the issue – finding some of the biggest challenges to find substitutes to be low pay, a required waiting time for retirees to return as substitutes and a low unemployment rate, which has slowed demand for temporary work without benefits.

“IT takes 60 credit hours to be a substitute,” Krysl said. “So one of the things we do is actively recruit college students.”

The district has also increased the pay for substitutes to $104 per day. Hoping that, and other efforts, make them more competitive as the school year begins.