CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many school districts are facing the issue of a teacher shortage due to the recent spike in COVID-19 infections.
“That presents a challenge," Conrado Garcia said, superintendent of West Oso Independent School District. "We don’t have enough substitutes and so principals are having to find other ways to cover their classrooms, as well. But so far though, we’ve been able to manage.”
Schools are preparing plans in the case too many teachers are sick and there aren't enough substitutes to cover a class. A human resources coordinator for Corpus Christi Independent School District said they have over 1,000 substitutes and have been managing the shortage.
West Oso ISD has handled the shortage with substitutes as well, but said they could use more.
“Certainly the administration is available, counselors are available and other special needs type teachers are available," said Garcia. "Coaches are available. I mean, you look around and you’re able to shuffle some staff around to take care of our students.”
As of Tuesday, Gregory-Portland Independent School District had 34 staff members out with COVID-19. But the superintendent said the recent incentive that their school board approved in the fall has been beneficial.
“Our board approved an additional ($2,000) for substitutes who work a certain number of days throughout the entire school year, substituting within our district," said Dr. Michelle Cavazos, superintendent of Gregory-Portland ISD. "And we did find after we announced that, that our fill rates for substitutes increased at that time and have continued to stay at higher levels."
Garcia added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's revised guidelines have actually helped out the school districts.
“Teachers are not staying out as long," said Garcia. "Five days is manageable. When you start going into the 10 days plus — and what we don’t want, we don’t want any more staff sick. Absolutely not. That’s a priority for them to get well."
Both West Oso ISD and Gregory-Portland ISD continue safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus while in school. Gregory-Portland has offered N95 masks all year and has sanitizer distributed through schools. West Oso has N95's on the way as well as rapid testing kits.
“The kids like to call them their ghost buster packs," Cavazos said. "Our custodians have the packs where they go around and spray the rooms and go in. Like when a class goes to lunch or they’re not in their classroom, they’re doing extra cleaning even during the school day as well.”
Through the current teacher shortage, both Garcia and Dr. Cavazos shared gratitude for their communities.
"We just want to applaud our community and our schools for taking the personal precaution to stay as healthy as possible, getting vaccinated," said Cavazos. "We are asking people to and highly recommending wearing masks."
"They still, even with the teacher shortages and the demands placed on our schools, they're sending their children to us," Garcia said. "I thank them for that.
Garcia said West Oso ISD has had a student attendance rate around 87 percent while Cavazos says her district is around 90 percent attendance.