- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2022

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is encouraging National Guard members and state workers to serve as substitute teachers to alleviate staffing shortages in schools and child care centers due to the omicron wave.

The Democratic governor said volunteers will be subject to the same requirements as regular substitute teachers and child care workers, including background checks and completion of an online substitute teaching workshop.

“Our schools are a critical source of stability for our kids — we know they learn better in the classroom and thrive among their peers,” Mrs. Lujan Grisham said Wednesday. “Our kids, our teachers and our parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty, and the state stands ready to help keep kids in the classroom, parents able to go to work and teachers able to fully focus on the critical work they do every single day in educating the next generation.”

Mrs. Lujan Grisham resorted to the extreme measure as schools around the country grapple with a wave of absences among people who catch the coronavirus or self-isolate after coming in close contact with an infected person. Schools also have reported that it is hard to find people willing to become substitutes amid the pandemic.

Some schools are struggling to stay open for classroom learning and reverting to remote instruction.

President Biden acknowledged the issue during a midweek news conference but said that 95% of schools are operating normally and blamed some states for not spending federal money they received to improve safety.

New Mexico officials announced the staffing initiative at Santa Fe High School, which is operating remotely because of a lack of substitute teachers.

“We’ve heard from multiple districts that a lack of substitute teachers is among the most critical staffing issues right now, and they’ve asked for the state’s support,” state Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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