Boise Back to School

Students get to work in a classroom at Taft Elementary School in Boise as a new school year begins, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

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With Idaho schools facing big shortages of substitute teachers amid the surging COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Brad Little today announced two new initiatives: $10 million in "Substitute Teacher Recruitment Grants" that districts could use to recruit and retain subs and other classroom support staff; and a new executive-branch agency employee benefit in the form of paid time off to serve as a substitute teacher.

State workers choosing to use the benefit must meet all school district requirements for substitute teachers and pass all required screening.

"My priority throughout the pandemic has been to ensure in-person instruction for our students and minimize disruptions to learning as much as possible," Little said in a news release. "The availability of substitute teachers to step in when needed is critical to ensuring our students have the best chance at success."

Little tapped leftover CARES Act coronavirus aid funds for the new grants.

Little's moves were welcomed by the Idaho School Boards Association and local school officials including Twin Falls Superintendent Brady Dickinson, who said in the governor's news release that it will help schools continue in-person classes. "A key component to keeping schools open for in-person instruction is having the necessary staff," Dickinson said.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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