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Temperature checks are part of the protocol at Livingston Parish schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Danielle Gordon, left, checks Holden High senior Bailey Hull's temperature as she heads to class on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year at Holden School on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Holden, La. 

Citing staffing problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Livingston Parish School System is launching an effort aimed at growing the number of available substitute teachers in its schools.

Every school in the district will display signs and make information available with the hope of attracting qualified people to address an ongoing shortage in substitutes, the school system said.

“We recognize this shortage has been hard on our employees, and we are optimistic that we can begin to increase our substitute teacher pool to help ease the load,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said in a statement. “With more people receiving the COVID vaccination, and many people in need of employment, we want to encourage them to consider taking on the rewarding position of being a substitute teacher for the remainder of this school year and into the next.”

The system has increased its pool of substitute registrants by 100 since the beginning of the year, but more people are still needed to address the shortage, the district said.

The pandemic has worsened a persistent challenge for the system because of a high absence rate of teachers due to teachers testing positive for the virus or being forced to quarantine following close contact with someone who tested positive, according to the district.

At the same time, fewer people have signed up for the substitute teacher pool, according to the release.

“Over the past five years, we were able to cover about 95 percent of all our teacher absence days with qualified substitutes in the classroom,” Livingston Schools Human Resource Director Bruce Chaffin said. “This school year, that coverage rate did drop because of the COVID pandemic. That has not meant that classes have not been covered, as our district has utilized all our resources to ensure that each class has been filled with quality instructors.”

More than 300 faculty, staff and volunteers from Livingston’s 47 schools have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Louisiana Department of Health began tracking coronavirus cases in schools near the end of October, tied for the seventh-highest in the state. More than 800 students have tested positive for the virus during that same time period, according to LDH.

Murphy is among the faculty that have come down with the virus, announcing a positive test in December.

No cases among Livingston faculty, staff and volunteers have been reported this month, according to LDH.

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Coronavirus cases are low in Livingston Parish, but so are tests administered: 'Nobody shows up'

Livingston Parish as a whole has struggled to combat the pandemic.

Parish officials have struggled to address parish-wide testing rates that are some of the lowest in Louisiana, noting the low figures could be attributed to a large population seemingly disinterested in getting tested for the virus.

In a boost to Livingston Schools’ challenge of staffing its classrooms amid the pandemic, the system became one of the first school systems in the state to receive and administer its own doses of the coronavirus vaccine a little over two weeks ago.

The system’s team of 27 nurses administered the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to nearly 700 employees of the schools. Those employees will receive their second dose of the vaccine from the school system on March 31 and April 1, spokeswoman Delia Taylor said.

Livingston Parish schools holds coronavirus vaccine drive hoping to grow faith in safety of shots

People interested in substituting in Livingston Schools can sign up on the system’s website.

The system pays substitutes at a daily rate that rises with the level of education the substitute has, according to the release.

“Our primary goal is to ensure our students are safe and that learning does not ever stop,” Chaffin said.