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DES MOINES, Iowa — Paraeducators would be able to continue serving as substitute teachers in their school district under a proposal approved by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners on Monday.

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners held an emergency meeting to approve a proposal that would allow school districts to request that their certified paraeducators be able to continue substitute teaching if they are authorized.

The proposal still needs to receive final approval from the legislative Administrative Rules Review Committee, but Iowa Board of Education Examiners Executive Director Mike Cavin is hopeful the new rule can go into effect by Wednesday.

Paraeducators, also called instructional aides or associates, work under the supervision of licensed teachers and assist a variety of students including those with and without disabilities, health needs, limited English and others. The role of a paraeducator was expanded during the pandemic under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation.

The emergency proclamation allowed paraeducators to work as substitute teachers in other classrooms in their district to help overcome a lack of teachers. However, the governor’s emergency proclamation is set to expire this Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., resulting in paraeducators losing the ability to substitute teach outside their classroom.

“If we were to lose even one or two substitute teachers because of that, it just makes things more challenging,” said Ben Petty, the superintendent of the BCLUW Community School District serving portions of Grundy, Marshall and Hardin counties. “And it oftentimes means that we’re really scrambling to try and fill in when the teacher is absent, or that other teachers are giving up their planning period more often. It just creates more stress, more of a strain on the entire system.”