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May 24, 2022

Granite teacher union highlights substitute teacher shortage

A teacher’s union for Granite School District says its schools are woefully understaffed with substitute teachers Thursday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A teacher’s union for Granite School District says its schools are woefully understaffed with substitute teachers.

Granite District social studies teacher Deborah Gatrell posted to Twitter that five of her colleagues had called out sick and there were no subs to fill in for them Tuesday.

Gatrell also previously ran for Salt Lake County Council, serves as chairwoman of the Veterans Caucus with the Utah Democratic Party, and is a National Guard soldier.

Granite District spokesman Ben Horsley told a producer for Dave & Dujanovic on KSL Newsradio the tweet from Gatrell was disheartening.

“Frankly I’m a little disappointed in this tweet. This isn’t that unusual. That is a staff of almost 100 people so for five to go call in sick one day really isn’t that abnormal. While five of those spots may be unfilled at this very moment, most of those spots get filled by mid-morning as our subs pick up jobs and at a high school, other teachers will usually fill in for the extra cash using their prep period. In other words, this happens every day and it’s not that big of a deal,” he said.

Teacher’s union echoes sub shortage concern

Michele Jones, president of the Granite Education Association, said the substitute teacher shortage is a problem for many districts across Utah.

“A lot of that has to do with the amount of pay the district can offer the substitutes and the increased need due to COVID because we have more people out than normal,” Jones explained.

However, Jones said Granite School District is doing everything it can to recruit more subs. It is also getting creative to fill vacancies.

“For example, district people are substituting in classrooms,” said Jones. “In my high school, (I) had several district people the other day substituting for teachers that were out.”

The pandemic is also putting a strain on the available pool of subs. Jones said the best fill-ins are retired teachers, but many of them are reluctant.

Jones said, “There’s a lot of those people that aren’t willing to put their name in the hat to do those kinds of jobs anymore because they feel they’re higher at risk.”

As for current teachers, Jones said there is a difference of opinion about the safety of this school year.

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