The Missouri State Board of Education moved Tuesday to approve publication of an emergency amendment to offer a quicker path to training for substitute teachers in Missouri to address a shortage.
"We are in a crisis situation with substitute teaching," board member Carol Hallquist said. "I talked to teachers who have their planning time taken up because they're teaching classes because they can't find substitute teachers."
Cole County schools' substitute numbers were rising or holding steady as of February.
However, Jefferson City School District Superintendent Larry Linthacum told the school board Monday substitute teacher shortages were among the issues that had "worn heavily" on the district, according to previous News Tribune reporting.
The Missouri Board of Education heard from Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality Paul Katnik, who emphasized the need to move quickly to change requirements for substitute teachers to improve recruitment and meet the urgent need for substitutes.
"I know several days ago I heard about a prominent urban district superintendent in the middle school teaching science because they're down to whatever they can make work," Katnik said.
The emergency amendment Katnik offered "adds language that allows department-approved training as an alternative route to gain a substitute certificate of license to teach. This will expedite a strategy for addressing shortages of substitute teachers," according to the amendment document.
The rule allows people with a high school diploma or equivalent to be certified to substitute teach after 20 hours of department-approved training. The initial plan had been to review the amendment in December, but the timeline was not fast enough to meet the need.
"Since the beginning of the new school year and the emergence of a more severe strain of the virus, the department has determined that school district substitute teacher shortages have continued to accelerate. The department has further determined that there is an emergency need that the proposed amendment, if effective now, would address," the document stated.
The amendment is scheduled to take effect Nov. 2, and Katnik said training was ready to go as soon as the approval of the secretary of state came through.
The board also spent significant time discussing the need for quality education for gifted and talented students following a presentation on the status of gifted education.
Presenters on gifted education and the Missouri Postsecondary Advising Initiative emphasized the need to reach small school and rural students. Some rural schools may not offer gifted programs, while they also may not have the advising capacity to encourage students to attend college or technical training programs after high school, the data showed. The MPAI was designed to offer guidance counseling services to underserved students.
Kari Monsees, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education deputy commissioner, and Mallory McGowin, chief communications officer, updated the board on recent COVID-19 policies and spending. The new "test to stay" protocol was issued Oct. 8 and allows students to continue to stay in school after being in close contact with an infected person if they undergo frequent testing, and they are advised to still wear a mask. McGowin said this is an option for schools to choose to implement as policy.
Katnik also announced the launch of Teach Missouri, a program designed to improve recruitment and retention of teachers in the state. He listed four elements of the mission: elevate the profession, improve perception of teaching as a career, attract the next generation and implement a statewide recruitment system.