DC Public Schools has filled few COVID coordinator, full-time substitute teacher positions

D.C. Public Schools on Wednesday provided the council with hiring updates for its COVID coordinator and full-time substitute teacher roles in city schools.

City officials said the school system has hired COVID coordinators in 24 schools and full-time substitute teachers in 27 schools, leaving 181 positions left to fill. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser first announced $22 million in funding to fill those positions in October.

COVID coordinators, she said at the time, would be tasked with things, such as contact tracing and overseeing at-school testing operations, which have largely been the responsibility of school administrators in recent months. The full-time substitute teacher role was created to address the substitute teacher shortage.

The update comes as coronavirus cases are falling in the D.C. region, and the city has increased its rapid testing plans for schools. All students, for one, will be required to take rapid antigen tests and upload results before returning from a weeklong break later this month.

Bowser and Chancellor Lewis Ferebee have also continued the city’s asymptomatic PCR test program and launched a variation of test-to-stay, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-endorsed practice for keeping unvaccinated students in school.

WTOP has contacted Bowser’s office and D.C. Public Schools for comment on the vacant positions.

At a news conference earlier this week, Ferebee said there are about 100 more people in the hiring process for each position. City officials had previously said they hoped most positions would be filled by the end of January.

The city is required to update the council on its hiring progress as part of a recently-passed law spearheaded by At-Large Council member Robert White.

In an interview Tuesday before the data was released, White, who is also running for mayor, said the hiring delays are frustrating.

“We’ve been frustrated with how long it has taken to get the COVID coordinators in place,” White said. “We all recognize the challenges that COVID presents, including staffing challenges, but the administration did tell us months ago that the COVID coordinators would be in place.”

At the time of the October announcement, Ferebee said in a news release the full-time substitute teachers would provide “more consistent substitute support.” D.C., like many other local school systems, has been facing a substitute teacher shortage.

Bowser earlier this week announced an increase in pay for substitute teachers. The group Washington Substitute Teachers United has held several demonstrations outside the Wilson Building calling for higher wages and benefits.

Data on the open positions is available online.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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