As they face added Covid-related pressures just a month after classes resumed, momentum is growing among NWT school districts to hire more substitute teachers.
Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that MLAs in Yellowknife have received more requests for substitute teachers from school boards. Her post included links to job applications for substitute positions with Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1), Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) and Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO).
Wawzonek’s post comes just days after the GNWT announced $12.4 million in new funding to schools to help them cover the costs of responding to the pandemic.
A total of $1.5 million was earmarked for substitute teacher and custodial staff salaries, since a “100 per cent increase” in those allocations is expected to be needed as schools face more staff sick leave and self-isolation periods, the GNWT said in a background document.
Heightened health measures due to the pandemic are expected to result in more teachers staying at home.
Staff who experience what would normally be mild symptoms are asked to stay at home, staff showing any Covid symptoms during cold and flu season must self-isolate until their test results are returned, and some teachers might refuse to attend work related to scenarios involving co-workers or students, the GNWT said.
Education districts in Yellowknife have indicated they would face increased costs related to substitute teachers and Covid sanitation measures.
In May, Yk1’s board of trustees said in a meeting that there would be added costs for intensified cleaning procedures at schools, but the figures weren’t yet known.
YCS has said it anticipates additional costs for substitute teachers.
NNSL Media has asked both districts for details on the costs, and is awaiting a response.
Yvonne Careen, superintendent of CSFTNO, said the new funding for substitute teachers is “very appreciated” and has helped the French education district hire five substitutes, with 15 applications received, a number that is “a little bit higher” than typical, Careen said. Six more applications were being processed through the GNWT.
“We do not have a set number that we are looking for. We are continually looking for substitute teachers as some apply, then find other employment,” she said. “In pre-Covid times, staff made an effort to be at school, but with the restrictions on the numbers of symptoms one can have, more teachers are making the wise choice to stay home if they are feeling unwell.”