Our Pandemic Year: Scheduling for Disaster

COVID-19 has not only been a challenge for teachers and students, but also for the school’s administration and support staff

Faith+Everhart+is+responsible+for+scheduling+subs+for+all+teachers+and+essential+staff+members.++COVD-19+has+made+her+job+extremely+challenging+this+year.+

Mario Grugan

Faith Everhart is responsible for scheduling subs for all teachers and essential staff members. COVD-19 has made her job extremely challenging this year.

When a teacher or staff member at TASD is away from their classroom for any reason, it’s Substitute Secretary Faith Everhart’s responsibility to make sure that their class is covered by another qualified teacher or staff member.

Reliable and qualified substitute teachers are always hard to find, even in “normal” times, but COVID-19 has made Everhart’s job very challenging at times.

“October and November were extremely difficult this year due to COVID,” said Everhart, “There were only 37 student days in the months of October and November and I dealt with an impossible number of staff absences.”

Some days I had to find coverage for five to eight classrooms that didn’t have substitutes to teach in those classrooms”

— Faith Everhart

In just those two months, there were a total of 168 COVID-related staff absences and 1,014 total teacher and staff absences, of which 407 were directly related to student instruction and needed substitute coverage.

Since last spring, 38 Tyrone teachers, four central office staff members, and eight outside contractors who work in the school have tested positive for COVID-19. Add to those the other teachers and staff members who were in close contact with someone who was COVID positive, and the number of staff absences skyrocketed in the past 12 months.

“Dealing with the staff and substitute shortages has made my job extremely difficult,” said Everhart, “Some days I had to find coverage for five to eight classrooms that didn’t have substitutes to teach in those classrooms.”

That means finding teachers with a planning period, using administrators to cover classes, or finding staff who can be reassigned to provide classroom coverage.

Almost every morning this year, teachers open their email to find a message from Everhart in their in-box with a complicated list of coverage assignments for the day along with an invitation to cover a class.

English teacher Karissa Budny has been covering classes during her planning period an average of 2-3 times per week this year.

That means more lesson planning, grading, and other administrative responsibilities have to be shifted to evenings and weekends, but Budny says she doesn’t mind doing it. She understands that everyone has had to step up and do extra duty just to get through the year.

“This year is difficult in general. I don’t think there is a normal anymore; therefore, covering classes hasn’t made it feel much more overwhelming than it already is,” said Budny, “I feel like if we can help out by covering when people need it, it is the right thing to do; I’m certainly thankful when teachers cover for me.”

When there are no full-day subs available it takes up to seven teachers to replace one in the high school, and upwards of eighteen teachers to cover one absent teacher in the elementary school.

Once people started to see what I was up against on a daily basis, I had an outpouring of staff checking in on me. So, for me, the good that has come out of this pandemic is feeling appreciated”

— Faith Everhart

Tyrone high school phys ed teacher Tom Coleman said he has covered classes for teacher absences almost 90 times this year.

Asking teachers to give up their only time during the day without students to cover an unfamiliar classroom during their planning period is difficult for Everhart, but necessary.

“I have gotten good at apologizing. [At times] I felt alone and totally misunderstood and underappreciated,” said Everhart. “The one thing that has helped me was how the people here started reaching out to me to see if I was ok. Once people started to see what I was up against on a daily basis, I had an outpouring of staff checking in on me. So, for me, the good that has come out of this pandemic is feeling appreciated.”

Everhart’s journey through the pandemic is an example of how hardships can only be overcome with the support of coworkers, friends, and family.

That includes Everhart’s husband, Tyrone High School English teacher Steve Everhart, who has received a call from his wife more than a few times asking him to cover a class.

“I nod my head nonjudgmentally when she vents and say “I agree 110%.” Reflective listening,” said Steve Everhart.