Ketchikan High School. (KRBD file photo)

Ketchikan’s school district has put out an appeal for more people to work as substitute teachers.

That’s as a shortage of substitutes is pulling other school employees away from their usual tasks and into understaffed classrooms, says Superintendent Melissa Johnson.

“We’ve been running on fumes trying to keep schools going,” Johnson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “So if we can get some substitutes, then it will relieve some stress (on) administrators and school staff.”

The district reported on Sunday that more than 70 people with ties to Ketchikan’s schools had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. Nearly 30 had spent time in schools while infectious. The report did not specify whether the infected people were students, teachers or other staff.

Meanwhile, Alaskans across the state have reported difficulties flying home from holiday vacations as poor weather and coronavirus concerns hamper travel across the country.

But Johnson says the push isn’t directly related to the pandemic or travel issues. She says lately, it’s just been harder to recruit enough subs to fill in for absent teachers.

“It is definitely something that we need, but it has nothing to do directly with the pandemic or directly with anything in society. It’s just that we are seeing an uptick in some requests, and then we aren’t able to fill those positions,” she said.

Johnson says substitute teachers need a high school diploma and must pass a background check. After pay raises in February 2020, Ketchikan subs earn at least $100 a day. Subs with an Alaska teaching certificate can earn $150 a day. They follow plans left by regular classroom teachers and can choose when and where they’d like to work. Johnson says it’s a good fit for people who are looking for temporary work.

Applications are available online at the school district’s website or by calling 225-2113.