As Columbia Public Schools prepares for in-person learning to start Monday, the district is still in need of substitute teachers.

In the fall, one of the reasons elementary students had to revert back to virtual learning was staffing issues related to quarantine, isolation or other personal matters.

District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark told KOMU 8 News the district is relying on the vaccine to hopefully fix the future staffing issues.

The district had around 200 staff members eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1A because they are school nurses or are dealing directly with medically fragile children, according to Baumstark.

The staffing issue will remain if teachers become sick or are quarantined because the vaccination date for the remainder of the teachers in Phase 1B is unknown, according to Baumstark.

The vaccination date for Phase 1B is up to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and not the district.

Baumstark expressed that this is just the reality that the district is dealing with right now.

“It is one of our challenges; it will continue to be one of our challenges,” Baumstark said. “The light at the end of the tunnel, of course, is our employees being vaccinated.”

The spring semester still could result in short or long-term closures due to staffing issues for in-person classes, according to Baumstark.

The Missouri Department of Education recently loosened requirements to become a substitute teacher.

According to the website: “DESE no longer requires individuals with valid Missouri teaching certificates who wish to substitute teach in a school district to apply for a substitute certificate. This includes individuals who hold an initial professional, career continuous professional, lifetime, student services, administration, provisional and/or temporary certificate.”

In August, DESE changed the hours required to become a substitute to 20 hours from 60 hours.

“Following the State Board of Education’s decision today, individuals who possess a high school diploma or equivalent may complete a 20-hour state-approved substitute teacher online training to be eligible for a substitute certificate,” DESE stated.

The district will continue to encourage those that are eligible to apply, Baumstark said. Information about how to apply is available on the district’s website.

Jennifer Kwantes, media clerk at Russell Boulevard Elementary, told KOMU 8 News having substitutes available is critical to the reopening.

“If the community wants to see those kids in seat, I would encourage everyone to, if you have the credentials, to help us find substitute teachers when these teachers start getting sick so we can keep those kids in school. If that’s what people want, we do need substitutes,” Kwantes said.

Baumstark said substitutes are “imperative” to be able to remain open.

“And that is something that I think all the school district desires are community desires,” she added.