In this Aug. 18, 2021, file photo, a help wanted sign for Cyr Bus hangs on a school bus in the parking lot of the Old Town-Orono YMCA. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Schools in Old Town, Alton and Bradley have raised substitute teacher pay to one of the highest rates in the Bangor region as COVID-19 sidelines teachers and schools struggle to find enough substitutes to take their places.

The Regional School Unit 34 school board voted Wednesday to increase the daily pay for substitute teachers to $105 from $90. The pay rate will apply to substitutes with or without a teacher certification.

Schools across the state have been scrambling to find qualified substitute teachers as well as recruits for a wide range of positions. Many districts have been forced to adapt to the shortage by having staff juggle multiple roles. 

The move in RSU 34 followed a recent informal survey of area school districts that showed pay for substitutes without a teacher certification ranged from $78 to $105 per day, placing RSU 34’s new rate at the high end. 

Pay in the region for substitutes with a teacher certification was as high as $120 per day, though RSU 34 Superintendent David Walker cautioned that rates could have changed since the survey was done.

The raise also allows RSU 34 to adjust its rate for a minimum wage increase that has brought the state’s minimum wage to $12.75 per hour, Walker said.

Substitute teachers will effectively earn $15 per hour under the new $105 daily rate.

“We simply had to revisit the rate of pay due to increased minimum wage amounts and increased rates of pay for jobs in general,” Walker said.

The raise is also connected to the district’s desire to keep students in school rather than shift to remote learning due to coronavirus cases, he said.

The increased pay isn’t the Old Town-area school district’s only effort to ensure it has enough substitute teachers.

The adult education program shared by RSU 34, RSU 26 in Orono and RSU 22 in the Hampden area relaunched its substitute teacher training program this past November to train potential substitutes and offer them information on how to become substitutes in the participating districts.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...