IDAHO — Schools across the Treasure Valley are offering monetary incentives after a series of school closures caused by a shortage of available teachers.
Districts now offering incentives include Nampa, West Ada, and Kuna.
Last week, the Nampa School District announced that they would offer substitute teachers bonuses of up to $70 per day if they worked on Mondays or Fridays. Substitutes will also receive $35 per day on top of other daily wages for assignments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, according to an NSD news release.
Substitutes currently receive a minimum of $95 per day for regular assignments but can earn $125 if they are certified and accept long-term positions.
The incentives come after NSD temporarily closed five schools last week and another five schools through this Friday.
"When the omicron wave hit, along with the flu and cold, we started seeing the highest absentee rates (of) teachers we've ever seen," NSD Director of Communications and Community Relations Kathleen Tuck said in an interview with Idaho News 6.
Tuck said NSD had about 300 substitutes "on the books" at the start of the school year, but their challenge is to find someone willing to "say yes on a given day." She said that the district has also hired 129 new substitutes just this school year.
"Last week, we only filled 50% of our empty spots," she said. "That means you've got a teacher who is gone, and we've gone through the school, grabbed every secretary, janitor, tech person, or principal who could fill those positions."
School closures result from being unable to fill all the positions and having to divert available staff to other facilities, Tuck said. The closures also help give teachers a "chance to recover and get better," she said. Last week, she said the district had nine bus drivers, 89 employees, and 379 students that tested positive and were out of school because of COVID-19.
Tuck said the district plans to keep these bonuses through March and reevaluate after the spring break vacation.
West Ada's Chief Communication Officer Charalee Jackson said the district's new bonuses are part of the "Operation: It Takes a Village" initiative.
Under "Operation: It Takes a Village" substitutes can earn:
- 1.5 times their daily rate of pay if they work four days per week
- Two times their daily rate of pay if they work five days per week
- Classified staff who work additional hours will receive double their regular hourly wage
- Contracted certified staff who take on added duties or cover a classroom will receive $50 per hour
In an online letter to parents and student guardians, WASD Superintendent Derek Bub said the operation is derived from the "old age," saying: "It takes a village to raise a child."
"The last several months have challenged us and offered us new opportunities to be optimistic every single day," Bub's letter on the district website states. "Together, we have responded to the best of our ability and in the best interest of our students."
The West Ada School District plans to offer incentives for substitute teachers until Feb. 25.
"We put our heads together and came up with this operation...so that we could show employees that are substitutes or potential substitutes that what they do is really important to us," she said. "And, that we want to put the dollars behind that."
Tuck said the Nampa School District staff are working hard to provide the best education possible despite the struggles.
"We have an amazing staff in the Nampa School District," she said. "When I've been out at the schools, what I've seen is a lot of superheroes, so I see a lot of teachers determined to get it done."
According to district websites, applicants must be at least 18-year-old, possess a high school diploma or GED diploma and pass background checks. Those interested can visit the district websites and apply.