Staff shortages cause classroom chaos


Photo by Maeve Sanford-Kelly

Students sit in the cafeteria during a study hall. Students are often sent to the cafeteria if their teacher is out with Covid because there are not enough substitutes to cover all the classes.

The surge in Covid-19 cases throughout the county has provoked several changes and unideal results at WJ. Among the most significant, the severe staffing shortages has kept WJ administration on their toes.
At one point, as many as 35 teachers were out. Due to the lack of substitute teachers available, classes whose teachers are out with Covid-19 simply do not have anyone to teach their class. The solution has been to place classes lacking a teacher in a myriad of locations such as the student commons and the cafeteria, combined with other teacher-less classes for the duration of the class period.
This means that rather than having a sub teaching a pre-made lesson plan, students are left to catch up on their own or just sit and play games on their phone.
“My teacher was absent the other week because of Covid so my class and a few others were stuck in the cafeteria. It was kind of a waste of a class period because we couldn’t learn anything so it was basically a free homeroom but much harder to focus because there were so many people there,” junior Ann Arons said.
These spaces have been staffed by teachers who have an available free period. Like many other staff members, health teacher Candis Fratkin was asked to use her planning periods to watch students in the common spaces while their teachers were out.
“It was challenging to miss an entire planning period. Whenever that happens, I must catch up with emails and grading in the evening. I already do have to work in the evening sometimes but lately it has been almost every night,” Fratkin said.
Staffing shortages have impacted the whole County. Staff members from Central Office, including high ranking directors, have been serving as substitutes for schools that can’t find ones and MCPS recently raised the wage for substitutes in hopes of recruiting more substitutes.
Some schools have been forced to take on even more unconventional methods. Senior Julia Levine interns at Wyngate Elementary School as part of WJ’s Child Development program. When her mentor teacher was out one day, she was asked to cover the class since they were yet to find a substitute.
“By the time [I got there], they still hadn’t found a substitute. I led indoor recess and a math lesson by myself…it was very annoying for the kids because they were unable to learn properly without their teacher but also for the other fourth grade teachers who had no other option than to trust a 17-year-old intern to teach a math class without any direction,” Levine said.