Regional School Unit 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean announced at a Sept. 28 Board of Directors meeting that the district is facing a severe substitute teacher shortage and to address that she will hire a full-time substitute in each district school just for this school year.

More teachers and faculty are calling in sick this year as a coronavirus precaution, which has increased demand for substitute teachers, McLean said. However, there are fewer district subs willing to work in the schools because of those same coronavirus concerns.

McLean said she hopes to fill the positions with subs currently vetted through the school and that she thinks subs will feel more comfortable working in only one school instead of being called into multiple district schools.

Lawrence Reichard has subbed for area schools for 13 years but for only about one year in RSU 71, he said. He is not accepting calls to sub currently because of the uncertainty regarding the coronavirus.

The 62-year-old said he is in one of the age groups most at risk for severe coronavirus infection. He understands it is important for students to have access to in-person learning, but the school cannot “100% guarantee” safety from the pathogen.

“I understand things are going well, and I think that’s great,” he said. “I wish the schools all the luck in the world. … But I also think that the health of the community is important. But for me, the math isn’t there.”

He said he is also concerned that students will tire of the mask and social distancing mandates. This concern is echoed in an update McLean emailed out last week stating that teachers said the “honeymoon is starting to wear off,” and she encouraged students’ parents to help remind kids about the mandates while at home.

Reichard is not entirely confident in the schools' ability to enforce the mandates. Children are a large group of the population that are asymptomatic carriers and the number of students who are asymptomatic carriers is growing, he said.

He supports the idea of having a full-time sub in each school and hopes the idea is successful, he said, adding that school is beneficial to children in ways beyond education.

“I really, truly do wish them all the best and I fully recognize having kids for their social development in school,” he said.

The temporary substitute positions come with five paid vacation days and health benefits, according to Director of Finance Chandra Hodgdon. People interested in the positions should contact Hodgdon at 338-1960.