School districts across the state are bracing for widespread teacher shortages the day after the Super Bowl.
More teachers are expected to call in sick or show up late to work on Monday, following a festive day perhaps made more so because Minneapolis is hosting the big game.
Local companies, such as Teachers on Call, that hire substitute teachers for school districts are boosting their incentives, offering bonuses and higher pay to entice substitute teachers to work on Monday.
The business, which sent out an e-mail to its members with the headline, "Get Ready for the Big Game! And win a SUPER Sub bonus!" announced that Monday was going to be a busy day and urged substitute teachers to pick up shifts.
Typically, the e-mail said, the day after the Super Bowl "is one of our busiest with LOTS of last-minute assignments and we expect this year to be busier than ever."
Amid teacher contract negotiations brewing in St. Paul and Minneapolis, critics say such anticipation for teacher absences gives teachers a bad reputation.
"It's just insulting," said Michelle Wiese, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, the union that represents Minneapolis public school teachers. "It's always my expectation day in and day out that my teachers show up, and they do show up."
Teachers on Call serves Centennial, Hopkins, Inver Grove Heights, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, Prior Lake-Savage, St. Paul, Stillwater and West St. Paul school districts.
Mounds View Public Schools officials said they were taken aback by the bonuses offered by Teachers on Call and that the district didn't have anything to do with it.
Teachers on Call did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
The Minneapolis public school district is also ramping up its available substitute teachers in preparation for Monday. The district is also worried about possible bus driver shortages after the Super Bowl and is keeping backup bus drivers on hand.
In a letter sent to Minneapolis principals, Michael Thomas, the district's chief of academics, leadership and learning, made it clear that "classes will continue at ALL schools" on Monday and that the district will be monitoring staff absences and classroom needs closely.
"Our standard attendance policies apply to both students and staff. HR will be monitoring each schools' sub needs during this time and will be in close contact with schools," the letter said.
So far, about 150 to 200 Minneapolis teachers have said they will be absent the day after the Super Bowl, said Dirk Tedmon, a Minneapolis public school district spokesman.
Since school districts nationally and locally are plagued with a shortage of teachers overall, it may not be unusual for school administrators to enlist support staff and even principals to fill open teacher positions.
Finding substitute teachers will also be a struggle for many Twin Cities schools that have stopped hiring subs in order to save money. According to a 2017 teacher workforce survey administered by the Department of Education, about 91 percent of school administrators said filling short-term substitute positions was either "somewhat" or "very difficult."
But this year, Minneapolis has more than 750 backup teachers on its reserve list who have completed the district's application and orientation process. On average, the district hires about 250 substitute teachers. But on peak days such as Monday, the district says it's gearing up to fill more than 300 positions with no bonuses attached.