SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Starting on Monday, school districts across South Carolina will be required to offer in-person learning to students 5 days a week.

But, right now, South Carolina is seeing a major shortage in substitute teachers, and one state education official says it’s hurting our children.

“What people often don’t understand is that substitute teachers are critically important to the operation of schools and critically important to the education of students,” Patrick Kelly, with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said.

Kelly said substitute teachers are more important now than they ever have been as students have experienced an incredible disruption to learning over the past 14 months because of COVID.

“In an average year, the district was able to fill 85% of daily teacher absences with a substitute teacher. This year, they’ve been trending closer to 45%,” he said.

As a teacher himself, Kelly said he’s witnessed this first-hand.

“A teacher has to give up a planning period, an administrator gets pulled to cover a classroom, or–what my school has increasingly had to do is basically create a glorified study hall, where multiple classes of students come together in the school’s auditorium,” he said.

With these options, Kelly said students aren’t getting the instruction they need and deserve. And parents have noticed.

“The kids aren’t getting the attention that they need,” mom Dana Moore said. “They’re not getting the full curriculum that they’re supposed to learn.”

Some parents think the pandemic has made it difficult for some people to get back to work.

“Stimulus checks are coming through. People are still on unemployment,” mom Shyenne Gee said.

But Kelly said it doesn’t take much to sub.

“There’s going to be a criminal background check, there may be a health test requirement; but, beyond that, any eligible adult can usually apply to be a sub, with adequate educational background–certainly at least a high school diploma,” he said.

And, because subs are so badly needed, many districts are offering them more money.

“Multiple districts across the state are offering bonuses to teachers this year,” Kelly said. “They’ve increased their daily rate of pay–all in an effort to try and get subs into a building.”

Kelly, and parents, are now encouraging everyone to consider stepping in to help.

“Our students need you and our students are the future of this state,” Kelly said. “And, I can promise you, it’s also one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, to be able to pour into the life of a child.”

“It’ll put things in a different perspective,” Shyenne Gee added. “You get to learn about students and the communities those students live in. You get to kind of understand and grasp what teachers really go through on a day-to-day basis; and I think it will form a better appreciation for teachers and a lot more respect for teachers as well.”