- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Juneau schools have been scrambling to get teachers in classrooms as they face a shortage of substitute teachers.

The problem is that schools have a low fill-rate, which is a percentage that shows how often a substitute can be found for a teacher absence, The Juneau Empire reports (https://bit.ly/1WlmECx).

An ideal fill-rate is 100 percent, but this year the August and September rates for the Juneau School District were 69 and 62, respectively. Those are the lowest numbers recorded since schools implemented Aesop, a substitute management service, in 2012.

District Human Resources Manager Ted VanBronkhorst said when there aren’t enough substitutes available, other teachers are there to help.

“Teachers are sometimes willing to accept additional students in their classroom or take a class when they are not assigned a class,” he said. “Essentially, they’re volunteering. Across the district a large number of teachers routinely pitch in.”

Principals have also stepped in to teach to make sure students have an instructor. Gastineau Elementary School principal Brenda Edwards said in her four years at the school, this year has been the most challenging.

“When we don’t have a sub, I end up in front of the class, which I really enjoy,” Edwards said. “But it has some challenges with my schedule and things I have scheduled for that day.”

The district is looking into how it can increase its fill-rate, including raising the hourly wage for substitutes. Currently, substitutes are paid anywhere from $10.67 to $16.67 an hour, depending on their level of experience and time on the job.

Director of Administrative Services David Means said that rate has not been increased since 2008. A raise for substitutes is something that will be discussed in coming weeks as the fiscal year 2017 budget is developed, VanBronkhorst said.

Until then, VanBronkhorst said he and his staff will focus on recruitment and balancing calendars so too many teachers are not absent at one time.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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