By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – Schools districts across Colorado are desperate to hire more staff in a variety of positions, but filling the need inside the classroom is a priority.

Faculty member Ingrid Chacon, right, directs students to use closest door to their classrooms on first day of school at Hodgkins Leadership Academy in Westminster on Aug. 20, 2020.

(Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

“Safety is our No. 1 thing, and we can’t have empty classrooms,” Lacey Nelson said.

Nelson is the Director of Talent Acquisition for Denver Public Schools. Her team oversees recruiting for every position in the district, and she says one of the more difficult spots to fill is substitute teachers.

“They are on call hourly workers that, you know, typically have to have a bachelor’s degree or some kind of experience in teaching and that has been difficult for us to find,” Nelson said.

To help districts fill those positions, the Colorado Department of Education revised requirements for their one-year substitute license. Previously, districts wanting to hire someone with a high school diploma but lacking a college degree needed to include a verification form for that person.

“Basically, to sign on saying ‘I’m going to sponsor this person, they are only going to work for my district and we’re going to help develop them and coach them through,” Nelson said.

(credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

During the pandemic they changed requirements so that verification is no longer needed.

Nelson says that has opened the door for a wave of new candidates.

“We have a lot of paraprofessionals that have worked with the district for many, many years under the direction of some of our extremely talented teachers, have gone through our culturally responsive education — they know a lot of stuff. They just don’t have that college education.”

Additional funding from the state has also given districts more opportunity to advertise those openings and in some cases, increase pay.

To learn more about the state’s requirements to obtain a substitute license you can visit cde.state.co.us and if interested in looking at positions at Denver Public Schools you can email careers@dpsk12.org.

Karen Morfitt