Fairfield cancels some classes due to sub shortage

Photos of Fairfield sophomores on the first day of school Monday morning, August 30, 2021.

Photos of Fairfield sophomores on the first day of school Monday morning, August 30, 2021.

Carol Kaliff / For Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — The school district is in need of substitute teachers and paraprofessionals after having to cancel several classes at one of the high schools last week.

Colleen Deasy, Fairfield’s executive director of personnel and legal services, said there are several reason as to why the school district is having so much trouble filling absences. However, most of those issues do not stem from the vaccination mandate, which required Fairfield staff members to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing by Sept. 27.

“We are having difficulty filling our absences when we do have teachers who are not in the classroom,” Deasy said. “We’re working on hiring more folks though there is, like in many of our other areas, a shortage in people who are eager and willing to come into the building and do a really great job for our students.”

Deasy said part of the reason that there has been such an issue as of late is because Fairfield’s substitute force is smaller than other years. Many of Fairfield’s previous substitutes are either retired or are people who decided not to come back this year. Deasy said the situation is understandable, “given everything that’s going on.”

There is also another layer to it. Deasy said the state has not issued the same waivers and requirements for substitutes as they did last year, which allows people who do not have bachelor’s degrees to become substitutes. These substitutes must have a high school diploma and show significant experience working with children though.

The school is able to submit applications on a case-by-case basis for a waiver for a substitute.

“There’s some flexibility with that, but the waiver is for this year only and it’s on a district-by-district basis,” Deasy said. “A lot of times daily substitutes are signed up in more than one district. Each individual district needs to submit a waiver for that person.”

In regards to the vaccination mandate, Deasy said that the schools were on the right track. A total of 1,496 staff members have been reviewed and approved as being fully vaccinated at this point, well over 90 percent of Fairfield’s staff. Only 17 staff members are partially vaccinated and around 100 staff members are unvaccinated. The unvaccinated workers are required to submit weekly test results to show that they are negative and can attend work.

This week only three staff members were unable to show up to work due to them not having their weekly test results.

Superintendent Mike Cummings said that when teachers are unable to attend work, “people are essentially redistributed.” If a teacher can’t cover the class, then it is canceled and the students are assigned to a study hall or go to the library for that period in their schedule.

“Essentially what happens at the secondary level, teachers are asked to give up a prep and cover someone else’s class if someone is out,” Cummings said. “In elementary, students are pooled and distributed across the remaining grade levels. Paras are pulled from classrooms.”