Westonka Schools is expecting it will need a greater than usual number of short-call substitute teachers this fall to help staff its two primary schools, middle school and high school, citing added precautions being taken around its employees’ health, namely to stay home if feeling at all unwell.

“A lot of our effort has been on this [past] school year and then our next focus is trying to prepare so we can enter fall in the best place we can be,” said Kevin Borg, superintendent for Westonka. “What we’re trying to do is put ourselves in the best position with the things that we can control so that we can operate well.”

Borg said the district doesn’t have a target number for how many of these substitutes it will hire this year, for which subjects for for which grade levels, only that the number would be greater than in past years and that the number hired would depend on how much of a commitment each substitute chooses to make.

Short-call substitute teachers are limited to assignments of 15 or fewer consecutive days in one classroom, but they can take on multiple assignments throughout the year.

Requirements for the position include holding a bachelor’s degree, completing a licensing application through the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) as well as an application with Westonka Schools. The district is already accepting applications, and PELSB will begin accepting licensing applications July 1.

“We want things back up and running. We want to have our students in the building; we want to have our parents to be able to engage with their child’s education in the ways that they have in past,” said Borg.

School districts throughout Minnesota are still waiting on guidance from the Minnesota departments of Health and Education around expectations for the 2020-2021 academic year with no hard directives expected until at least early August, officials with Westonka said.

At this point in mid-June, the district is intending to resume all programs normally offered, though some may be in an altered form. Mark Femrite, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Westonka, said that while distance learning is still an option come fall that options for regular in-class learning as well as a hybrid model of in-class and distance learning are still on the table.

Guidance around each of the three models was expected from the state level by the end of this week.

“We try to look at items that we can control earlier and [substitute teachers] was one of those,” said Borg. “We know that there’s a chance we could need more, so let’s do a push that isn’t just based on employment but also maybe there’s some parents that wouldn’t normally be a sub as a side job but may be more willing to do it to say, ‘This allows school to be open. I want to get my sub license so I can be called upon if that’s what the need is.’”

More details on the substitute teaching position can be found on both the Westonka Schools website and the PELSB website.

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