HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — As a local school district experiences a population boom, it is scrambling to find ways to fill in the gaps caused by teacher shortages. 

KXAN has reported on low pay, burnout and retirements as contributing factors to the problem. Hays Consolidated Independent School District said it’s working on solutions to help with the shortages — a problem plaguing classrooms around Central Texas. 

Hays CISD is expecting to see more than a thousand new students in the fall. Lehman High school teacher Carla Perez is already feeling the growth in her classroom.  

Carla Perez gives a lesson to a student at Lehman High School. (KXAN Photo)
Carla Perez gives a lesson to a student at Lehman High School. (KXAN Photo)

“My classes are usually about 12 to 15 kids, and I’m at 25 kids now,” Perez said. 

The chart below shows projected growth in district enrollment over the next several years. But as Perez has seen, there simply aren’t enough teachers to keep up with the demand. 

Enrollment projections from Hays CISD
Enrollment projections from Hays CISD

“The class sizes are so huge, because we’ve not been able to fill some of the teaching positions. So even though we have the funds, we have not had the applicants,” Perez said. 

That’s why she was excited for Thursday. The district held its first informational on the Lighthouse Teacher Certification and Preparation Program. The goal of the initiative is to recruit more teachers, especially within the district. 

The program is through Texas Teachers, and the district said it’s approved at the state level. The board recently approved $137,000 for the program.  

Here’s how it works: people with a degree in another field can apply to get this certification to become a teacher, all paid for by the district. 

“They have about a 200-hour coursework, and it’s online coursework. So it will be intense initially for those who want to be ready for August,” said Fernando Medina, the Hays CISD chief human resources officer.  “They take those initial hours, and then they also take what’s called a content-based examination, so that they can get a probationary type of certification through the state. They’ll have an internship and teach during that year, which is next year, and they should be ready to start by August. It is a quick turnaround at the onset.” 

Medina said moving forward, the district hopes to provide more time for employees who have an interest. 

There’s an emphasis to find teachers in high-need areas like special education and bilingual programs. 

“We have to have a greater sense of urgency and to delve into non-traditional approaches,” Medina said. 

To learn more about the program, visit the Texas Teachers of Tomorrow website or contact Medina