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New Mexico governor signed up to be a volunteer substitute teacher amid staffing shortages

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking the public’s help amid a staffing shortage in schools

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, announced efforts to temporarily employ National Guard troops and state bureaucrats as substitute teachers and preschool caregivers, during a news conference at Sante Fe High School in Santa Fe, N.M., on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2022. New Mexico is is struggling to keep classrooms open amid surging COVID-19 infections.

Morgan Lee, Associated Press

State workers and National Guard members are being encouraged to become licensed substitute teachers and child care workers under New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new initiative.

The omicron surge has created “extreme staffing shortages,” the governor said last Wednesday, announcing the new program called STAF, or Supporting Teachers and Families, that will help continue in-person learning, per NPR.

  • Grisham herself has completed the registration to become a licensed substitute teacher to encourage others and close in on staffing gaps, according to CNN. She expects to be placed in an elementary school soon.
  • “Our kids, our teachers and our parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty, and the state stands ready to help keep kids in the classroom, parents able to go to work and teachers able to fully focus on the critical work they do every single day in educating the next generation,” Grisham said.
  • Volunteers will have to clear a background check, complete an online substitute teaching training and go through an onboarding process by the school. The new program will help speed up licensing process to two days.
  • Asking for help from the public was the state's last resort. “There aren’t any other options,” the governor said. Since winter break, 60 schools have moved to remote learning and 75 child care centers have partly or completely closed, per the report.

Other states are facing similar problems. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to give California schools more flexibility in staffing decisions. Kansas lowered requirements for substitute teachers and Oklahoma allowed state employees to work in schools as substitutes.