WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Substitute teachers have been in high demand across the country as schools deal with absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilson County Schools are now looking for more fill-ins to keep students in class, even when teachers are out.

Bart Barker, the Public Information Officer for the Wilson County School System, says that the number of absences for much of January has been double what they would typically see, “100 would be on the low end, very manageable — right now, we’ve been in between that 175 to 225 range for absences.”

While the wave of illness caused by the omicron variant accounts for some of these absences, not all are COVID-related. “Sometimes teachers have had appointments for medical services and doctor’s appointments. Those sort of things tend to be scheduled way in advance. Others may be indirectly affected, helping tend to someone in their household who may be COVID positive or just run of the mill ill,” said Barker.

Despite some rumors to the contrary, Barker says there are no plans to go to virtual learning. “We want to be at school, our administrators want us to be in school, I think that’s the most important thing. And they’re going to do everything they can to make sure that each and every day, our schools are staffed effectively, staffed safely.”

To keep up with demand, Wilson County hopes to attract more substitute teachers. The school system uses a third-party company called Education Solution Services (ESS) to hire and place substitute teachers in Wilson County Schools.

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ESS’s District Manager Carly Moore says that the minimum requirement to sub is a high school diploma. Pay rates vary depending on education level and range from $72 to $85 per day. Applicants must also pass a background check, complete a medical form, and be trained on classroom management and other school procedures.