SASKATOON -- Fourth year education students are getting ready to join substitute teacher rosters across the province in an almost unprecedented move prompted by the current subbing shortage due to the pandemic.

It comes as very welcome news to Bailey Harvey who is finishing up an education degree at the University of Saskatchewan. 

“It’s super exciting because we’ve never been able to that before,” Harvey told CTV News. 

The last time a mass exception like this was made, was during the Second Wolrd War according to Association Dean at the College of Education Dawn Wallin. 

“Some teachers have taken early retirement, some have left and substitutes are choosing to go into the schools or not, during a pandemic. So you have all these factors in play and it’s definitely being driven by the pandemic,” Wallin told CTV News. 

The reason more substitute teachers are required is because normally, teachers will take one or maybe two days for personal reasons, but now according to John McGettigan with the Saskatoon Teachers Association, the pandemic is often requiring teachers to leave for a minimum of four days, putting pressure on the system. 

“This year, if a teacher has symptoms of COVID-19, it’s going to be two days until they get a test, and minimum two days until they get a result typically and so the minimum leave is now four days instead of two,” McGettigan says. 

With fewer subs this year compared to last year, the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board (SPTRB) has made an exception to get students on the frontlines by granting Temporary Teaching Permits (TTPs) before they officially have their degree.

“The SPTRB does not usually grant TTPs to fourth-year education students. However, as the fall internships were wrapping up in December, we heard from several school divisions that they were experiencing a substitute teacher shortage and that they would like to be able to have some of the students who had recently completed the internship in their school division placed on their substitute teacher list,” Trevor Smith, Registrar and COO with the SPTRB told CTV News. 

The SPTRB has received just over 60 applications for TTPs from fourth-year Education Students, but expect that number to go up with about 250 fourth-year students currently in the province attending the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina as well as First Nations University. So far none of the students have been filling in, but it’s expected to happen soon. 

Derrick Kunz with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) said so far, thanks to planning done at the start of the school year, the division has not experienced a shortage of subs.

“COVID-19 has presented many unprecedented scenarios, including how we have prepared to have sufficient substitute teachers. Before the start of school in the fall of 2020, we did a lot of work to update our sub list, which has made finding subs available to work more efficient," Kunz said.

Kunz said GCSC offered temporary contracts to substitute teachers in anticipating of more staff absences due to the pandemic.

"That planning has served us well so far, and we have fortunately not experienced staff shortages similar to those that you may be hearing about in other school divisions," Kunz said.

Saskatoon Public Schools also said it is not are currently not experiencing shortages. 

However, Harvey has applied to have a temporary permit and said she is waiting for the call to jump in and help out.