SAULT STE. MARIE -- Desperate times call for desperate measures and for the first time in Algoma District School Boards’ history, it has a job posting on its website for unqualified teachers. 

"An unqualified teacher is basically someone who has not gone to teacher's college and wouldn’t have an Ontario College of Teachers certificate," said Frank Palumbo, superintendent of education for Algoma District School Board (ADSB).

The board is in need of building up a list of emergency teachers as the flu season is just around the corner and the second wave of COVID-19 is upon us. Officials anticipate many teachers will be calling in sick this year. The board needs a new list because most of the regular supply teachers that would be called into work have been assigned to teach the roughly 1,200 remote-learning students who decided to learn from home this year.

Palumbo said they are looking for all sorts of adults that have experience in different types of fields. "Well, we’re looking for a variety of backgrounds because realistically we have classes to fill from kindergarten to Grade 12 in French opportunities, in tech opportunities, math, science, English. So we are looking at a variety of individuals to be able to add to this list," said Palumbo.

The unions understand why this is happening but that doesn’t mean they are not worried. Union officials have concerns about who is being hired and how much training they will receive.

"There is also quite a bit of education that needs to happen for those people to be able to function. How schools run, how discipline looks and what the expectations are in classrooms," said John Wells, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation - Algoma Secondary Teachers’ Local. "So I hope the board does a good job and I’m sure they will. It is an unusual time, but parents should be a little bit concerned about what is happening."

ADSB says the adults that are hired to become supply teachers will receive safety training before entering any classroom. They will also have to complete a criminal background check, but that could take up to eight weeks. So, the earliest they would be in a school should be November.

Some parents have wondered why the school board didn’t anticipate the shortage of teachers and put this call out in the summer.

The school board said it needed to see what the enrollment numbers were before going to this extreme route and the unions agree it's not the board’s fault.

"I had numerous meetings with the board over the summer and one plan would be one day and two days later, we’re looking at a different plan because the Ford government changed the rules," said Sharon Indrevold, of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation - Algoma Secondary Occasional Teachers’ Local. "So I think the Ford government needs to get their act together.

Palumbo said that the board has already received numerous applications since the job posting went live. He said ADSB is willing to work with the adults to place them in the schools of preference.