Colorado schools are calling in parents to serve as substitute teachers as the labor shortage rocks public schools

  • Schools in Colorado have recruited dozens of parents as substitute teachers this fall.

  • The national labor shortage has hit schools particularly hard this year.

  • Parents have been filling in gaps at schools, taking on roles as cafeteria workers or librarians.

Several schools in Colorado are calling for parents to step into the role of substitute teacher.

In October, Denver and Boulder school districts sent out a message to families asking for more parents to register as substitute teachers. Within hours of sending the message, 27 parents reached out about filling the roles, according to a recent report from The Denver Post.

Lacey Nelson, director of talent acquisition for Denver Public Schools, told the publication that the schools have always relied on parents to fill hiring gaps. But public schools have been forced to increasingly rely on parents to meet educational needs in recent months as they fight to stay in-person amid a growing shortage of teachers.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the US lost over 140,000 jobs in the local government education sector, as well as an additional 36,000 between state government and private education in September. Insider has previously reported that the shortage of teachers can be largely attributed to concerns over COVID-19 exposure and difficulties with teaching in a remote learning atmosphere.

What's more, COVID-19 infection rates have also led to an uptick in demand for substitute teachers — a subset of teachers that is in short supply due to low pay and less desirable working conditions. Schools in Colorado, California, and Georgia have been offering bonuses and incentives to lure in new teachers.

The state of Colorado also lowered its requirements for a one-year substitute teaching license this year, according to The Denver Post. Now, applicants can obtain a license without a bachelor's degree, as long as the individual is fingerprinted and has some experience working with children. But it may not be enough to incentivize parents who often have their own jobs and childcare concerns.

Erin Phelan, a parent volunteer at Bromwell Elementary in Colorado, told The Denver Post the steps to become a substitute teacher have created too many barriers for parents, especially for ones who lack childcare alternatives if they are assigned to a different school than the one their children attend.

Hundreds of parents across the country have stepped into a variety of new school roles this year from cafeteria worker to librarian. In October, Insider's Grace Dean reported that over 120 parents were volunteering in a Minnesota school district to help fill lunch shifts in the cafeteria.

Similarly, at Bromwell Elementary, 40 parents volunteer at the library just to keep it open, per The Denver Post. Insider's Hannah Towey previously reported that schools in Delaware were offering parents $700 a year to drive their children to work due to a shortage of bus drivers.

Read The Denver Post's full story on their website.

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