Substitutes play a key role in school districts across the state every year. This year, the coronavirus could make finding them challenging.

"There are some older people who like to sub because they are retired teachers, and some of those will not come in because of the health risk," said Breanna Hildreth, a kindergarten teacher at Daisy Bates Elementary School in Pulaski County. "We have to think about their health as well."

Hildreth started her career as a substitute teacher. It's what helped her land a full-time teaching job.

Officials with the Pulaski County Special School District say subs are typically hired on an as-needed basis, but this year they're in need of more long-term subs.

"We are hiring one to two long-term subs per building, based on the number of students each day," Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Shawn Burgess said.

Burgess says these subs would work in various parts of the school buildings each day. She says this would make the transition easier for students if a sub has to take over classroom instruction for a long period of time.

"Knowing those subs and knowing those faces will make them more comfortable."

Burgess says this is especially true if a teacher ends up needing to take time off due to exposure of COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus.

"We're just in a time that is so uncertain, and we want our students to have some certainty from day to day," she said.

That's why teachers like Hildreth say finding the right people to fill in the gaps is more important than ever.

"We have a better chance of maybe getting sick rather than them," she said. "So we just really need them to have our back just like we have theirs."

Burgess says each principal in the district has put together a list of substitutes they've had in the past they think would be good to come in daily. She says they still need more people to apply. The district is hosting a virtual hiring event for substitute teachers on Thursday.

You can find more information on how to apply here.