Pandemic creates hardships for substitute teachers

Distance learning limits job opportunities


Jiayu Zhan illustration

Substitute teachers brace for a decrease in job opportunities as online learning continues to replace in-person education across SRVUSD.

With the continuation of online learning this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, substitute teachers will likely face severe career and economic losses due to a sharp decline in job opportunities.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has used a constant system regarding substitutes for the past 10 years, SmartFind Express. Teachers who need a substitute place their request, and the program finds an appropriate sub or a substitute specified by the teachers themselves.

The SmartFind system isn’t only for teachers though. Clerical, custodial and classroom staff all receive substitutes when needed.

Despite this, opportunities for substitutes are low now and will likely remain so until schools can reopen.

“It’s not been too heavy,” said Gwen Larriega, the district’s substitute coordinator. “Right now, we’re averaging maybe 20-30 absences per day in the district, and it’s not all teachers.”

Before the pandemic, a normal day would see 180 to 250 absences, sometimes even more.

Since staff members can complete their work remotely, whether they are sick, out of town, or for other reasons, absentee rates have dropped. This is especially the case with online learning allowing teachers to start assigning work and teaching from home.

As schools adjust to distance learning, certificated substitutes have taken classes and training in online platforms for students, such as Google Classroom, Seesaw and Google Meet.

“They have some basic knowledge on how to teach remotely,” said Larriega. 

She expects substitute salaries to remain constant this year. With fewer job opportunities and a salary that doesn’t increase to compensate, substitutes will be severely harmed.

“[SmartFind Express] isn’t calling teachers right now, but I hope at some point, I’ll have enough people to let it do what it did before,” said Larriega.