Among the many ramifications of the pandemic, has been a profound shortage of substitute teachers. Contact tracing and quarantine protocols have left school systems short staffed, forcing some to get creative.
Responding to Governor Ned Lamont’s Step up Connecticut initiative, which is urging people to volunteer at many places including schools, Cheshire targeted a very specific pool of candidates.
“What we did specifically was to reach out to Cheshire high school graduates who are incredibly familiar with the community, with the school system, with the buildings, and with the staff,” explained Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeff Solan.
Solan says he put out a request last Wednesday and had 35 volunteers by Monday.
“It really speaks to the commitment of our younger population across Connecticut and what they can do for our younger students,” said Solan.
Among the volunteers is class of 2018 Cheshire High School graduate, Jack Raba.
“To be able to give back to the community that’s giving me so much I knew this was an opportunity I had to jump on,” said Raba, who is now a junior at Wesleyan University.
Raba’s parents were both educators, exposing him to the teaching environment.
“I was able to see early on, just growing up in that environment, that helping kids is something that I want to be a part of,” Raba said.
Isabel Orozco is another volunteer who says she felt a responsibility to step up for her community.
“I feel that it is my moral obligation to assist in such an uncomfortable, turbulent time,” said Orozco, a 2019 Cheshire High School graduate who now attends Wellesley College.
Having graduated in June, Orozco remembers what it was like when classes first went remote and can only imagine the pressure on teachers during the pandemic.
“Teachers right now are expected to be as normal as possible even though these are absolutely abnormal times,” Orozco said.
In the next few days each of the school volunteers will be background checked and trained before being assigned to a specific school.
Fran Rabinowitz, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, was among those praising those who’ve volunteered.
“I’m inspired by the number of people who have come forward to help us during this time,” said Rabinowitz.
Rabinowitz encouraged other districts to follow Cheshire’s model, in order to provide high quality education and avoid unnecessary closures.