Charlottesville’s school division is recognizing the sacrifices made by teachers and offering to pay them extra when they have to step in to cover an absent teacher’s classes.

The new policy approved by the city School Board will provide an extra $105 for every five class periods they cover and $210 for every 10 classes.

The school system already has taken steps to improve recruitment of substitute teachers. This latest change would compensate teachers for having to add workload in order to cover classes for which a substitute could not be found.

Say, for simplicity’s sake, that a school operates on a five-period day. A teacher who steps in to cover one class period could be increasing her workload for the day by 20%. She might have to skip her work planning period or forgo some other scheduled activity in order to free up the time to cover the class; that work then gets pushed into after-hours.

Anyone who thinks teachers have free time to spare and can easily take over another class probably doesn’t know any teachers.

The school system has been working to reduce the number of classes not covered by substitutes in order to avoid the necessity for regular staff to take up the slack.

Under the new guidelines, each sub would receive a welcome packet and be met at the school by a staff member who would help him settle into the classroom. At the end of the day, a department head would check in with the sub and thank him with a small gift card.

Such details might be “small” by some measurements, but can go a long way to making a sub feel appreciated — and therefore more likely to accept additional assignments.

And if its funding request is approved by City Council, the system will increase its pay for substitutes to $105 daily. If subs take on multiple assignments, they will receive bonuses — $150 for serving 10 times a month, double for serving 20 times a month.

Already, the school system has managed to ensure that around 70% percent of teacher absences are covered by subs. It’s the remaining 30% that can cause hardships for teachers who already have their hands full taking care of their own classes.

The new policy applies to Charlottesville High School, Walker Upper Elementary and Buford Middle School. Superintendent Rosa Atkins said that, because of the way elementary schools are structured, the demands and difficulties are somewhat different than at the high and middle school levels. The school system intends to offer some sort of compensation if a class has to be split up among several teachers to cover an absence, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.

The school system came up with its new policy after discussions with teachers; teachers have been asking for added compensation for taking on extra work.

They deserve that.

The changes are expected to add only $25,000 to the budget for the next fiscal year. It’s a small price to pay for acknowledging the worth of teachers’ time and dedication when they absorb added duties.

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