EDGEFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Several school districts across the CSRA are going fully virtual.
Now, COVID brings a renewed spotlight on a resource that has always been in limited supply. Some say the procedures surrounding quarantines are bringing into focus a much bigger issue the shortage of substitute teachers not only here but across the Palmetto State.
“I just love children after being home for 18 months. After following my retirement, I was getting bored, the same humdrum things. I kept thinking about my babies at school and how much I missed them. I wanted to be there with them,” substitute teacher Julie Jackson told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Jackson is one of the heroes at Edgefield County Schools. After a 30 year career at Douglas Elementary, she is back providing her expertise at a time when the schools really need it the most. But, her decision wasn’t without at least a hint of reservation.
“My husband teaches high school in Augusta and he had already been quarantined several times with that he was like, ‘do you really want to do it?’ I said, you know, I’m going into it with the attitude that it’s going to be a good thing,” she recalled.
Her role is a critical one as school districts across the Palmetto State face shortages of a few good people.
“People who have been air pilots have become substitutes, nurses, firefighters, and that unique work history is something that our kids can really learn from. They just feel community when they go into a classroom and they see someone who has had a different experience in their life, come in and teach them something,” Rachel Garrett Client manager at Kelly Services shared.
Officials say the shortage is affecting Edgefield by up to 50 percent. Those folks step in at times including when a large number of staff members have to quarantine due to close contact with someone who has COVID or testing positive themselves.
“We have a monitoring system where we track the percentage of staff available to help supervise students on campus based on the number of staff that are still at the school, and the number of substitutes that are available to help when teachers are absent,” Superintendent Dr. Kevin O’Gorman said. Then the move is discussed with school board members. “We make a recommendation about school opening and, or moving to full remote along with the number of weeks that they might be in that status based on how many folks we have out in that quarantine period,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kelly Services is joining forces with the district providing its help when it comes to recruiting. A high school diploma or GED and a background check are required. “You can apply on Monday, you can interview on Tuesday, have your training complete and your orientation on Wednesday, on Thursday we can hire you, and on Friday, you can be in the classroom,” Garrett shared.
The pay is based on the type of education you bring to the table. “So there is a range and what we would encourage you to do is call us and apply,” she added.
As for Jackson, she says that her main focus is making sure students see a smile in the midst of a pandemic after her granddaughter told her she didn’t see her teacher’s smile for three days. “I thought, wow, that just really shocked me and that was one thing that I thought about when I came back to sub, I thought I’m going to make sure those kids see my face. Cause I want them to know that I love them and that I’m there for them.”
On Thursday, January 28, the district will be hosting an Open House drop-in at Johnston Edgefield Trenton Middle School from 3:45 p.m.-5:45 p.m. for anyone interested in learning more.