A Substitute Shortage: How North Faculty and Teachers Are Impacted


North Forsyth has had an issue with a lack of substitutes from August to late September (Photo By: Cassidee Jackson).

Across Forsyth County Schools, there have been a lack of substitutes compared to the amount of absent teachers. Teachers across the district and at North Forsyth have to substitute for each other during their planning periods or even during their class periods. North Forsyth’s response to this substitute shortage shows how we as a school can unite together to help one another. 

There were many factors that influenced this lack of substitutes. The high amount of daily COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the school year and possible unreported cases have caused some substitutes to not come to North Forsyth High School. This substitute shortage placed much stress on teachers because they had to teach their own classes, have less planning time and work outside of school. Teachers also had to teach quarantined students virtually and, for some, teach virtual classes via Forsyth Virtual Academy—on top of the extra weight of substituting. 

Administrative Secretary Ranita Christopher has provided more insight into how this lack of substitutes have impacted all subject areas and faculty members. According to Mrs. Christopher, “everybody’s had to cover for each other across the board: admins stepped in to cover classes, secretaries have stepped in to cover classes…. Everybody’s just…[have had] to cover a class at one point.” 

Continuing further, the lack of substitutes doesn’t seem to impact one department disproportionately more than the other. As stated by Mrs. Christopher, the issue “came in waves… [so it was] all pretty equally spread out.” Despite the stress its caused teachers, the situation shows how the staff are like a family because “everybody [across departments] just steps in and helps any way they can.” 

Mr. John Major, the AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics and AP Government teacher, is one teacher who has been especially impacted by this issue. He covered and assisted with teaching AP Macroeconomics students from another teacher’s class (who was absent for two weeks from COVID-19). Mr. Major has “given up two class periods to cover other teachers’ classes.” Even though the situation presented a challenge to Mr. Major, he “[counts] on the fact that [his] colleagues would do it for [him].” 

Mr. Major has substituted for AP Economics and AP Government classes in early September (Photo By: Cassidee Jackson).

Mrs. Summerour, the Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry teacher, has also seen the impact of this substitute shortage on the Science department. For Mrs. Summerour, her planning period was somewhat impacted by the issue. She stated that “I happen to have a planning period that a lot of other people in our department also had, so I was usually lucky. But I only had to split it with somebody and didn’t take up my whole planning period.” According to Mrs. Summerour, having to substitute during planning was “pretty stressful, especially at the beginning of the year when you need time to get things together.”

Mrs. Summerour has substituted for classes in the science department throughout late August and early September (Photo By: Cassidee Jackson).

However, Forsyth County Schools and North Forsyth High School have been working diligently on rewarding teachers and solving the problem. For example, the school has given teachers multiple incentives for their efforts to cover classes. Mrs. Christopher notes that “[teachers] get entered into a drawing to win a gift certificate.” Staff who have covered many classes are allowed jeans passes, which is where they can “wear jeans anytime [they] want.” 

In addition, Forsyth County has been hiring new substitutes across elementary, middle and high schools. Mrs. Christopher has personally seen “many new names pop up [on the system] accepting jobs for us.” There have been “so many new people in the last… two weeks alone; so the beginning of the year might have started rough but it is definitely looking up right now.”

In Mr. Major’s opinion, the measures that Forsyth County Schools and North Forsyth High School are making are great steps forward. Mr. Major considers the jeans pass reward to be “a good way to offer teachers… a thank you for doing something… that’s slightly above and beyond the call.” According to Mr. Major, the jeans pass and other appreciation measures are a “nice recognition that we did something more than we have to do.” Mr. Major and other teachers have noticed that “before Fall Break, [they] saw a lot of additional subs become available for [them], and that’s made a huge difference.” 

Mrs. Summerour also has similar opinions to Mr. Major about Forsyth County Schools and North Forsyth’s new initiatives. In regards to both the jeans pass and the gift certificate drawings, Mrs. Summerour thinks it was “nice for them to try to come up with an incentive plan to show that they appreciated the work people were putting in.” She also has seen the increase in more substitutes coming to North Forsyth, and noted that “department coverage has been a lot less” in the past weeks.

Through August and September, this problem–the substitute shortage–has been improving, and teachers and faculty alike are seeing the difference.