CEDAR GROVE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Many schools in New Jersey start Tuesday. Some had no choice but to go all virtual because they could not find enough substitute teachers.
One family has those first-day jitters and is one of many doing last-minute back-to-school shopping, picking up sanitizers, masks and books at the Staples off Route 46 in Totowa.
“I’m sort of excited, but sort of nervous because there’s going to be a lot of kids,” eighth grader Kimberly Huachaca told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
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“I’m excited because I want to see who’s in my class,” fourth grader Christine Huachaca added.
Their schools in Wayne will be a hybrid — the first two days in person, the rest of the week online.
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State figures show more than half of New Jersey districts will operate that way, and more than a third are starting the year with remote learning only, in some cases because the increased demand for substitutes to watch classrooms where teachers had permission to work from home outpaced supply.
In Cedar Grove, the superintendent said there was an influx of requests from employees to take a leave of absence. The district could not find enough substitute teachers to fill those gaps, so learning will be all virtual, Rozner said.
Sean Spiller is vice president of the New Jersey Education Association, which has asked for all remote instruction statewide.
“We have a lot of educators who are rightfully scared,” Spiller said. “Educators are in a unique position in that were bringing students back into schools that often times are air systems not up to standard. We’ve got windows that can’t be open because of safety concerns.”
“And we have hours and hours of indoor contact,” he added.
Only 10% of New Jersey schools are returning to in-person learning full time.
Joseph Kelley is vice president at Kelly Education, which recruits subs for around 50 districts across the state. The company is doing outreach to recent college grads and career changers to fill the sub pool.
“I think we’re going to see potentially a second wave of new leaves, whether it’s through when schools come back maybe in October, November, December, January,” Kelley said.
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Potential subs need 60 college credits and a clean criminal background check. To attract more qualified candidates, some districts, like Ramapo Indian Hills, in the last few days doubled the pay of substitute teachers from around $100 to $200 a day.
It’s a coronavirus pandemic pay increase, in the hopes of increasing the backup staff.
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