ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Round Rock ISD’s Superintendent says the outlook for the spring semester and 2023 is positive – with improvements on school safety, mental health resources, and staffing numbers planned.

Dr. Hafedh Azaiez says the district is healthy despite the resurgence of flu cases and COVID in the area. He says those absences from teachers and students are relatively low – a wanted improvement from this time last year.

“We were worried last year, last school year. I don’t know if you remember—we are one of the few school districts who actually offered Virtual School for the entire semester. The second semester, we thought everything was behind us. So, it’s exciting to see everybody back every day,” said Dr. Azaiez.

The superintendent says staffing has made a vast improvement as well despite the ongoing teacher shortage. He says recruiting efforts by administrators have filled nearly every vacancy in the district.

“I think we’re pretty much to 90 over 95% staff, which is a really, really good number we want to be there and that that there are higher obviously closer to 100%,” said Dr. Azaiez.

School safety is always a priority for Round Rock ISD, says Dr. Azaiez. He says the district will debut improvements for better physical safety later this semester, and plans are in the works to support mental health on campus as well.

He says the district has applied for several grants that would expand access to those resources for staff and students. He’s hopeful those applications will be approved in the coming months.

“Really we want to emphasize more than ever the support that students and staff really need and offer that help,” said Dr. Azaiez.

With the Texas Legislature in session, Dr. Azaiez says he wants lawmakers to consider higher pay across the state for teachers – low pay cited as a major factor in the mass exodus of teachers during and after the pandemic.

“They work so hard, and we need to make sure that they’re well compensated for that effort. Definitely increasing maybe the basic allocation by another $1,000 will really go a long way of helping us achieve that,” said Dr. Azaiez.