TOPEKA (KSNT) – Schools across the state are doing everything they can to keep the doors open. That isn’t an easy task with critical staff shortages in every aspect of education.

The Kansas Commissioner of Education, Randy Watson estimates that school districts are seeing between 14% to 40% of staff members out at the moment. When schools don’t have enough educators or substitutes, that creates a plethora of other problems in the community.

“If schools are not open, many families go without critical services,” Watson said. “There’s not a breakfast, there’s not lunch, they have to take off work which means they can’t go to work because they have kids at home. Not only does learning suffer, but there are many parts of the economy that suffer, and then that student can suffer because counseling and food services stop.” 

To combat this, the Kansas Board of Education voted to temporarily lessen the qualifications for substitute teachers. Now, those 18 and older with a high school diploma that can pass a background check and receive a recommendation from the current superintendent of that school district can apply to be a sub.

Former Manhattan Mayor and current City Commissioner Usha Reddi saw the need in her community and began substitute teaching about a month ago to help the Manhattan School District.

“I’m doing my part. I understand a lot of folks who don’t feel like this is the time for them but I’m hoping more people step up and do it. That’s the only way to keep our community going forward and to keep our students in the class and to help our teachers out,” Reddi said.

This emergency plan is only good through the rest of this school year at the moment. The Education Commissioner says that background checks take between 2 – 5 days, so if you’re looking to help your local school district within the week, there’s a possibility.