July 15, 2021

Managing Teacher Absenteeism in the Time of a Pandemic


As schools reopen after the stressful COVID19 lockdowns, educators and school administrators face a new set of challenges in managing schools. Online student engagement and classroom scheduling are already daunting tasks. When you add teacher absenteeism and substitute teacher hiring issues to the mix, the challenges are rapidly getting harder to manage.

Let’s look at the challenges facing schools in the times of this once-in-a-generation event and how they can effectively tackle them.

The Makings of a Perfect Storm

Pre-existing and pandemic-fueled factors have created the perfect storm of substitute teacher shortage across the United States. Let’s take a look at the most prominent ones.

Demand Exceeds Supply

Since 2010, enrollment into teacher preparation programs has declined by over 33%. According to available data, a whopping 340,000 fewer students enrolled in the program in the 2016-17 academic year as compared to 2008-2009. The number of students completing these programs has also come down by almost 30%.

The crunch is now being felt across the education system. Experts agree on projections that teacher demand will exceed the supply by more than 110,000 positions on an annual basis. So, looking at the bigger picture, managing teacher absenteeism will become a more daunting task for educators than it already is.

Increasing Need for Substitute Teachers

There is a growing need for substitute teachers everywhere across the US. The regular teachers who would have continued their jobs before the pandemic have decided to quit. There are varied reasons for this development, and one of the significant reasons is that many teachers have decided to take early retirements. What’s exacerbating the problem is teacher absenteeism has gone up due to pandemic-related factors.

Teachers who are older, pregnant, or those belonging to any other risk group, who would have worked under normal circumstances, cannot continue at their optimum performance level. They are simply bowing out due to either underwhelming or overwhelming measures taken by schools during the ongoing pandemic.

Teachers are also taking leave to counter the psychological trauma of being cooped up inside for extended periods.

Limited Pool of Qualified Substitutes

Many of the qualified substitutes that the schools were using happened to be retired teachers from the same school district. However, the increased risk of contracting a deadly coronavirus weighs heavier than a daily pay of $100 to $150. So, a sizeable segment of substitutes is beyond reach. With states also practicing more lenient regulations to increase the pool, it is becoming more difficult for schools to maintain the quality of their substitute teachers.

Technology as a Solution

As schools adjust to the “new normal,” an effective teacher absentee management system like InstaSub can help speed things along. It helps solve some of the hurdles that stare the school administration in the face during and after the COVID19 pandemic.

Issue 1: Poor Management of Absenteeism

Like many administrative tasks, absentee management must be handled properly. Traditionally, this is a tedious and time-consuming task that can throw up unexpected problems. For instance, teachers can apply for leave with minimal notice, which often presents a challenge for securing the best substitute teacher to fill in .

With an absentee management system, the entire process can be automated. Teachers can input their leave in the software, which can then reach out to a large substitute pool, shortlist the candidates based on eligibility criteria set by you, and assign them the job.

The seamless process reduces the work pressure on the already overworked school employees and improves the efficiency of existing processes.

Issue 2: Lack of Qualified Substitute Teachers

You can improve access to qualified substitute teachers by making it easier for substitute teachers to accept your temporary teaching jobs. When you use our software, you allow substitute teachers to respond to substitute opportunities with ease. With instant notifications via email, push notifications, or text messages, your jobs will be filled with qualified substitutes in a matter of minutes.

We also help you streamline critical processes like leave approval, absence tracking, and more. It will also save you a lot of time which can then be used in other aspects of school operations.

Issue 3: Poor Substitute Retention

Substitute retention should be treated at par with substitute hiring, especially in the current climate. This can be achieved by engaging them with clear communication of goals and expectations. You can also give them access to multiple online school resources to improve their knowledge and pedagogy. A pleasant experience with the school will encourage substitute teachers to apply for future vacancies at your institution and the word-of-mouth publicity will also help you get more substitute teachers easily.

We Are In This Together


When a viral infection started in the last leg of 2019 in a small Chinese city, no one could have predicted that people around the globe would still be affected by it in the latter part of 2021. As the infections flared up in 2020, strict lockdowns were imposed across the United States. Like every other sector of the economy, education too took a hit. Administrators are facing problems managing multiple facets of running a school, from scheduling classes to ensuring student engagement to managing teacher absenteeism.

As teacher absenteeism continues to be critical problem for schools, it makes sense to get all hands on deck and use every resource available to tackle it effectively. Our experience and expertise in teacher absentee management are at your disposal. Contact Us today to learn more.