WAYNE, NJ – During this week's Wayne Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Wayne Schools, Dr. Mark Toback warned the BOE and the public that because of the increase in COVID cases leading to the quarantine of teachers, Wayne may have days when certain schools are forced to close for in-person learning.
Currently, the Wayne schools have 39 staff members quarantining, Toback reported. This is on top of 60 teachers who have special accommodations “for various reasons, and they do not necessarily have to be in school, but there has to be a substitute,” he explained. This number has been rising recently as the CDC has released updated guidelines regarding COVID and pregnancies.
This means that approximately "100 teachers that have to be covered on any given day." Adding to this is a shortage of substitutes throughout New Jersey. For Wayne, the school district has a current substitute fill rate of about 22%. “This means that approximately four out of five openings could not be filled by per diem substitute teachers." Though the district was able to fill openings using permanent subs and by re-assigning teachers.
“But the fact is, that there is a void,” he said and showed that in September through November in 2019, the district had 310 hours of substitutes, while in the same time period this year, the district has used 15,756 hours of substitutes.
Another issue for the Wayne schools is they now have 160 non-working approved substitutes. These are subs approved by the BOE that are unwilling to come in to work. Toback said that last year, there were only 59 non-working subs.
Give all this, Toback said: “We're going to have a very difficult time making sure that our schools remain safe. Ultimately the safest place for kids to be is in school, but that changes when the schools are not adequately staffed and so that's what we're facing right now: a situation where we really are struggling to adequately staff our schools.”
BOE trustee, Dawn Kumar asked, “What happens if we don’t have enough teachers?”
Toback’s answer: “It would be an unexpected school closure much like a weather closure or something like that. We're not there yet, but if the numbers keep moving in the wrong direction, we may be there in the next few weeks."