The elementary and middle school district in Evanston may soon be using high school students to help younger children perform better in classes and on tests.

Faced with a significant shortage in tutors for a student support program, Evanston/Skokie District 65 is looking to bring in students from Evanston Township High School to help plug the gaps.

Superintendent Devon Horton told the District 65 school board curriculum committee on Monday that “there is quite a bit of hope with the partnership with ETHS,” where qualified high school students could serve as elementary and middle school tutors.

District 65 had hoped to hire 61 adult tutors for new Academic Support Centers in 16 school buildings, but so far only 31 have been brought on board. Five more are in the pipeline, but that still leaves a significant shortage.

The biggest problem is with the district’s three middle schools, where only two of 14 tutoring positions have been filled.

Superintendent Horton explained that “the chill is in middle school. Many tutors run away from that level.” Math skills are harder to teach, and middle schoolers can sometimes be a challenge, whatever the subject.

Board vice-president Biz Lindsay-Ryan used the analogy that “this is the same situation I have with getting 5th and 6th grade softball coaches. They don’t want to teach how to pitch.”

Besides needing more tutors, District 65 is also on the lookout for more substitute teachers.

Assistant Superintendent Andalib Khalgati told the committee that before the pandemic, an average of 85% of positions requiring substitutes were filled daily.

Now, the rate is down to 51%, although it has edged up just a bit lately. Sometimes central office staffers have to fill in.

Khalgati said that as in many fields, there’s a shortage of interested and available workers, in this case, substitute educators..

He said subs often prefer the flexibility of a part-time job, and don’t necessarily do it for the money.

However, he added, “money does count.”

He said the district may have to take a more aggressive approach to recruiting, perhaps incorporating cash bonuses for substitutes who regularly answer the call.

According to the job site, the average hourly pay for a substitute teacher in Evanston is $17.25. Chicago pays nearly a dollar more, with both Oak Park and Naperville offering more than $20.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.