NEENAH (NBC 26) -- As school districts welcome students back to class, there's a concern about who might be willing to teach them.
State education leaders tell us there's a substitute teacher shortage at a time when they may be needed most.
In Neenah, for example, officials said finding subs was a priority from when they first started planning what school would look like this fall.
“Every time we have staff members out we’re struggling to find subs, and this year we’re probably going to have them out more than ever," communications manager Jim Strick said. “From our administrators perspective, it’s one of the biggest concerns that we have going into this year.”
State education leaders at the Department of Public Instruction said Neenah is not alone in that concern. They said several districts are struggling just to hire teachers for their regular classrooms.
However, they said tens of thousands of licensed teachers are not in public classrooms, and that includes substitutes. Since the state changed sub licensing requirements back in 2017, making it easier to be a sub, the number of people with a short-term license has gone up. The problem this year is that teachers may not be willing to go into schools.
“Look within their community (for subs), and think about parents, think about graduates," DPI's David DeGuire said. “Check with your alumni, see who’s back in town and interested in subbing.”
In Neenah, Strick said some subs have said they're not comfortable working this year. Others have said they'll be willing to work every day. There's also hope that as several districts go online, schools like Neenah will be able to get subs for in-person classes.
“We’re optimistic we can tap into some of that," he said. "That is one of the things we’re hoping will work out for us this year.”