Staffing Shortage at SMHS


By Ella Tackett

Students and staff alike have been experiencing extremely high rates of absences in the second semester, largely due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our community. This is taking a large toll on everyone at SMHS, and the situation isn’t getting any better. With dozens of teachers gone each day, it is putting a strain on available substitute teachers and leading to students falling behind on lesson plans.

Exemplifying the problem is the fact that some teaching positions are not currently filled. Teachers retiring mid-year has led to even more vacancies in the staff. “Our teacher that they hired can’t come until they release him from his old school, so we still don’t have a teacher and it’s just a sub right now,” said sophomore Kennedy Kerins, whose math teacher retired two weeks into the new semester. The lack of employees in recent weeks has many causes, but the impact is taking a toll on both students and staff. “It’s really boring with a sub, you kind of just sit there the whole time,” said Kerins.

Because there are so many openings, there has been a significant decrease in the number of available substitute teachers in the district. The sheer number of openings, coupled with the fact that substitutes are getting sick at the same rate as full-time teachers, is resulting in other staff members at SMHS taking on temporary teaching roles. “I’ve had counselors, other teachers, I had Mr. Dawson once, and I’ve had supervisors too,” said sophomore Celina Jiang. “We don’t really receive lessons when we have subs though.”

The number of teachers absent daily has been in the upper 20s at SMHS, which is abnormally high. The recent wave of the new COVID-19 variant has had an exponential effect on absences, in which teachers are out taking care of sick children or parents, at doctor’s appointments, or are sick themselves. For teachers who are out for extended periods, it is an additional struggle. Long-term substitutes are usually reserved for teachers going on sabbatical because of maternity leave or other reasons, so sick educators are typically stuck with a different substitute each day.

Due to vacancies in all positions, many employees have had to take on roles outside of their job descriptions. Seeing Principal Dawson in the quad picking up trash at lunch is a common sight, and the counselors and supervisors are common backup options for substitutes when none are available. Without teachers in classrooms though, it can be hard to learn effectively. Many students will agree that not much learning gets done when there is a substitute, especially when there is a different one every day.

This problem is pressing and widespread, but the good news is that when the recent surge of infections starts to slow, in theory, this issue will too. Until then, we will all have to make do with the current situation. Hopefully students will come through with a deeper appreciation for what teachers do every day and how much they sacrifice to be here.