Montclair High School parents and students are reporting that a high number of teachers have been out on leave for extended periods this school year, in some cases without a dedicated substitute in place.

As of May, 17 of the 156 teachers and staff had applied for family, maternity or medical leave or were on administrative leave during the school year, according to information provided by the district.

By comparison, a total of seven high school teachers went on leave in the 2017-2018 school year. The district would not provide specifics on length or reason of those leaves.

At the May 16 board of education meeting parent Sue Weintraub also criticized the lack of qualified substitute teachers at the high school.

Superintendent Kendra Johnson declined to comment when asked if 17 staffers taking a leave of absence was average for a school year.

Four staff members have not yet returned to work this year. Of those four, three staffers, including an operation aide, a Spanish teacher and a student assistance counselor, were out on administrative leave, and did not have a return date listed by their names. A science teacher was on maternity leave.

In total, five staffers had put in for medical leave, five had put in for family leave, five had put in for maternity leave, and three staffers were out on administrative leave.

Eight of the classroom teachers who were out on leave at some point during the year had “various” substitutes filling in for them, or otherwise did not have a substitute’s name listed next to their names.

Nine of the teachers and support staff on the list had gone out on leave two or more times, with at least one staffer being listed as being out on leave four times, according to the documents.

The length of leave varied from one month to six months.

The staff who did not have designated substitutes listed by their names were primarily support staff, including office staff, secretaries and aides. However, some classroom teachers, including social studies and special education teachers, did not have an assigned substitute, according to the list.

The district is also expecting a total of nine retirements by July 1. Three of those retirements — an art teacher, a science teacher and a secretary, have already taken effect.

Parents questioned the board of education about their students’ regular teachers being absent for long periods of time, and alleged that not all of the substitute teachers assigned were qualified to teach the subject matter.

John Lytle’s daughter is enrolled in honors pre-calculus, and the regular teacher was absent for an extended period of time starting in the fall, he said.

“It took too long to get feedback on whether a qualified teacher would be coming back or whether a qualified substitute would be coming in,” Lytle said.

The issue has since been rectified, he said.

But he felt that with math classes, there were certain innovations that classrooms could use, such as lecture videos and online classes, to help students continue learning outside the classroom, or in situations where the regular teacher was absent.