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Iowa school districts struggling to find substitute teachers

A July 17 proclamation from Gov. Reynolds waived the background check requirement for substitutes.

IOWA, USA — Substitute teaching has become a main focus for school districts across Iowa, such as Des Moines Public Schools, which is trying to tackle a shortage of substitutes

Sarah Hinzman, an artist and educator from Cedar Rapids, told Local 5 that even though she is a certified substitute, she doesn't feel comfortable going back into a classroom.

At the time she became a substitute, one of the things she needed to complete was a background check. 

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, certain services required for a background check were not available.

"I checked with the Cedar Rapids Police department, Linn County Sheriff's Office and neither of them are offering fingerprint services to the public," Hinzman said. "So I went, 'Kkay, I think there's one private business that you can go to.'"

Despite not completing the fingerprinting, she still received her certification.

Gov. Kim Reynolds' July 17 proclamation waived the requirement for a background check. 

Dr. Nora Ryan, the Human Resources Director for Marshalltown Community School District, said trying to fill these positions has become a struggle.

"Last year, we were at about 72 available and ready substitute teachers for the year," Ryan said. "And this year, we're barely at about 50. And so we are roughly 30 percent fewer subs for the year."

Ryan said Marshalltown schools are trying to make the best of not having enough fill-ins in the classroom.

"When we do not have available substitute teachers for a day, we usually have our other certified staff in the building cover for that teacher," Ryan said. "So during their prep periods, or their free periods, they will step in and, and supervise the children."

Hinzman expressed concerns about being called in to substitute for a teacher who either is exposed to or diagnosed with the virus. She emphasized how dangerous it could be not only for herself, but others around her.

"I never want to be a part of the problem, I always want to be a part of the solution," she said. "And it just seems like this is a huge problem."

"I feel a bit of a sacrifice to not do something that I'm passionate about and get compensated for it."

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