As schools around the U.S. continue to experience staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has reportedly signed up to become a volunteer substitute teacher in order to combat the situation.
According to CNN, the New Mexico politician has launched an initiative asking both state workers and National Guard members to become licensed volunteer substitute K-12 teachers and childcare workers. The initiative is to help fill staffing gaps in hopes of preventing closures across school districts and childcare centers.
Volunteers will need to clear a mandatory background check as well as complete an online substitute teaching training. They will also undergo typical onboarding processes done by the schools where they are being placed. This new program speeds up the approval of the licensing process to just two days. However, civil servants and National Guard members who are currently taking on critical healthcare roles or administering COVID-19 vaccinations are not to participate in the school initiative. They will remain on their healthcare assignments.
The New Mexico Governor revealed to CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield this weekend that she has no prior experience in education. She is also expecting to sub in an elementary school next week. She explains that the state has no choice but to ask for additional help from the public. “There aren’t any other options.”
The New Mexico politician also said she will donate her services and not accept payment. “We’ll have additional information about her placement this upcoming week,” press secretary Nora Sackett states.
Lujan Grisham says that she is among the 100 (50 National Guard members and 50 state employees) who are signing up for the New Mexico school substitution initiative so far. “The whole goal is certainly not to interrupt the qualified experienced work that is required in our public schools.”
The New Mexico governor also shared that around 60 school districts and charter schools are now at remote learning. This was due to staff members testing positive for COVID-19. Some staff members were also isolating or quarantined under CDC recommendations.
Along with the 60 school districts, 75 New Mexico child care centers have also been partially or completely closed since the start of 2022. Santa Fe Public School Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez, stated the initiative is instrumental in helping to return to in-person learning. It will also reduce stress on remaining staff who have taken on additional duties at the schools.
MaryBeth Weeks, head of the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association, has also issued a statement about the initiative. “This initiative will help create a stable school environment, as well as help parents who are having to juggle childcare and jobs.”