Substitute Teacher Shortage Forces Montgomery Co. To Close Schools on Thanksgiving Eve

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November 16, 2021

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Last week, the Montgomery County Board of Education passed a resolution to make Wednesday, November 24th, a holiday for staff and students, citing a shortage of substitute teachers. 

“We depend on our substitutes because often we have staff who needs to take leave,” said Interm Superintendent Monifa McKnight, proposing the closure at the board meeting last Tuesday.

“We need to operate with things in place. That can not happen on the day before Thanksgiving given the data we currently have,” said McKnight. 

The decision was met with mixed responses.

Dr. Jennifer Reesman, a community advocate with an 11-year-old child in the school system told the interim superintendent, “You just told us that you do not care about us,”

In an interview with The Click after the meeting, Reesman continued, “As someone in health care, this to me was really jarring.  I know that not everyone is privileged to drop everything and make alternate arrangements for their children. and I was really deeply disappointed that they chose to take away even more instructional time from children.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland had more than 11 thousand substitute teachers two years ago. However, this year, not all of them are picking up days when requested.

The shortage is taking a toll on teachers. Katie Flanders, who has been teaching in Montgomery County for 18 years, says she never had to worry about taking a day off before the pandemic. 

That changed last spring when the county reopened schools on a hybrid basis, a demanding schedule even for experienced teachers. 

“I think most subs stopped covering classes then. Many of the subs I used to use have said it does not worth my time. it is not enough money for what we have to deal with.”

The impact, she says, is both personal and professional. 

“It became a big problem professionally because I feel like I can’t take off. It is putting pressure on my teammates to have to cover my class,” said Flanders adding, “my own family, my kids, they have things they need, days I need to be off to help them. I feel very guilty.”

The Montgomery County Board of education says it is working on attracting and retaining qualified teachers s, including through the “grow your own” initiative.

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