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Portage's schools, like Kalamazoo's, are short on substitute teachers

A desk in a crowded corner at a public school in Portage
Courtesy photo
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Portage Public Schools

Independent news outlet Now Kalamazoo recently reported on a severe substitute teacher shortage at the Kalamazoo Public Schools. At the Portage Public Schools, it’s the same story.

PPS confirms that like KPS, the district is short on substitutes, bus drivers and food group workers. In both Portage and Kalamazoo, teachers are using their planning periods to sub in other classes. And in some cases, administrators, paraprofessionals and principals are subbing for substitutes.

Brad Galin, Director of Human Resources for PPS says districts are having to compete with each other for staff.

“It is clearly not sustainable,” he said. “But knowing that we are not alone in this, that we are in with every other industry at this point certainly makes it more of a challenge.”

Galin said schools are simply not exempt from the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the labor market.

“There is certainly an impact there as well on the extra that we’re asking people to take on,” he said. “Which can be difficult and sometimes just add to the overall stress level that we’re all feeling.”

In Michigan, students can qualify as substitutes with just 60 hours of college credit. Steve Leland of the Kalamazoo Public Schools says the district is recruiting.

“We’re working with a lot of the departments in the education field at Western, at K-College, at Kalamazoo Valley, with our community partners. We’re trying to get the word out,” he said.

The district has to take an “all hands-on deck approach” while the shortage lasts, Leland said.

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