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Substitute teachers concerned about returning to class during pandemic

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TAMPA (WFLA) — Across the country, a shortage of qualified school teachers call for substitutes to fill vacant positions. And that was before the pandemic hit.

“I think it’s a mathematical certainty that across the country we are going to end up with not enough full time teachers,” said Cheryl Courier with Kelly Services.

Last year Kelly Services hired 100 to 200 teachers a week for Hillsborough County Schools. This year, the coronavirus is expected to have an impact on those numbers.

“You throw in 1 in 5 teachers not returning, COVID, Flu season and we have a teacher shortage,” said Courier.

On the positive side, people who are facing unemployment now have a great opportunity to apply for a part time position as a substitute teacher.

“I would hope that people who have been impacted by COVID would look at this as maybe a second career, to get out, learn something new. I mean a substitute job is great if you are still looking for another position,” said Courier.

Still, some substitutes are worried about their health and the health of their families if they do return to the classroom during the pandemic.

“I am very concerned about going into schools blind, because as a substitute, we are not in the same school each day,” said Debi Klimon, who works as a substitute for several schools in Hillsborough County. “We are in different schools, different classes.”

She says each day for her is different and that may present challenges during the next school year.

“These are children I don’t know. Is he coughing because he has seasonal allergies or is he coughing because he’s sick.”

She is also concerned about what may happen if she contracts the virus.

“I have no insurance, I have no health insurance, so if I get sick, not only am I looking at two, three, four weeks of no pay because I don’t receive a salary, I’m paid per day, per hour, but I have all of these medical bills that I’m going to be responsible for,” Klimon said.

The Florida Education Association, the largest teachers union in Florida, is now suing the state over the mandate to return to class.

Fedrick Ingram, the President of the union says “It is nonsense to think we are ready to open brick and mortar and return to teaching in just two weeks.”

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