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OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – Many school districts are facing substitute teacher shortages because of COVID-19.

In El Reno, 400 students are starting the year virtually after an employee tested positive at one of the district’s schools.

“We’re going to have a normal first day of school for them. It’s just going to be a couple of weeks,” said Craig McVay, superintendent of El Reno Public Schools. 

Twenty other staff members may have been exposed.

“Our sub pool’s very limited,” McVay said.

Only about a third of El Reno’s substitute teaching positions have been filled.

“We’ve discussed our substitute situation for the last couple of months because we just assumed that not everybody’s going to be standing in line to go fill a spot if someone comes down with the coronavirus,” McVay said. 

The district’s plan involves many community members.

“We have some incredible volunteers through one of our mentoring programs,” he said.

He says administrators and paraprofessionals can help out. There are also volunteers from the city, police and fire departments.

Edmond Public Schools also has fewer substitutes.

About three-quarters of the district’s absences were filled Friday. Last year, the average was about 90 percent.

“Some of our subs are going to be older, some of them are retired or they may be at home with someone who’s compromised,” said Randy Decker, Assistant Superintendent of HR at Edmond Public Schools.

He says they’ll use other teachers to fill the gaps.

“Since we’re on an A/B model, that actually has freed up a few positions within the building,” Decker said. 

Oklahoma City Public Schools says its shortage isn’t as substantial since they’re starting the year online.

However, they have increased their daily pay for substitutes by $40.

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