HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — With just two days before the new school year, Hays CISD still needs to fill critical positions.
According to the school district, there are currently 1,033 teachers employed with 23 vacancies. That’s compared to 1,015 teachers last school year with 27 vacancies.
Those positions range from math, science, and certified bilingual teachers according to Hays CISD.
Something the district says is impacting everyone most, is the lack of substitute teachers.
It’s 3rd grade teacher Heather Russell’s 37th year of teaching. On Tuesday, she made sure her classroom was just right before another first day of school.
“I am so excited,” Russell said. “I love my job.”
Still, she will be impacted by positions that aren’t filled yet.
“No teacher wants a situation where their classroom isn’t covered,” Russell said.
Hays CISD said this time last year there were about 400 to 450 substitute teachers. Now, the district says 215 have been hired. The district said its goal is to have 500 substitutes available throughout the school year.
“It won’t just affect classroom teachers this year, but we’ve now got a homebound program and an additional virtual program for quarantine kids,” Russell said.
The vacancies aren’t anything the district takes lightly.
“Right now what we’re looking at is the impact of COVID,” Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Fernando Medina said. “It has led employees in all aspects — particularly in the teaching field — to consider retirement, or staying home, or pursing other options.”
Medina said that burnout is impacting districts across the country.
Austin ISD said it had 138 classroom teacher vacancies on the first day of school Tuesday. That’s compared to 113 classroom teacher vacancies on the same date last year.
Medina said they’d like to get extra funding approved from the school board to increase minimum pay.
“We want to keep our existing staff so we don’t have the great need to fill vacancies,” Medina said.
The teachers who are working are doing what they can to make it another great school year.
“Whatever stress we’re feeling, that radiates to the kids, so we try to take a deep breath and take things as they come, because that’s what we’re trying to teach kids to do everyday,” 4th grade teacher, Peyton Perez said.
Some classroom sizes could be impacted by the teacher shortage. Russell said she just got another student added on Tuesday.
Hays CISD said that’s not unusual and that it’ll have to still be in line with teacher to student ratio rules.
In the meantime, Hays CISD said it’s upped its recruiting efforts by investing in more advertising options on social media and website apps. Medina told KXAN they’re also working to keep teachers who have retired or left the industry connected with the district, so that they can serve as substitutes if interested in doing so.
Austin ISD said it’s also actively working to fill vacancies by attending university and industry job fairs, hosting in-district virtual recruitment events and developing partnership and pipeline opportunities.
“We incentivize hard-to-staff candidates with SPED/Bilingual stipends and signing bonuses,” AISD Communications Specialist Eddie Villa said. “We have recently adjusted our retire/rehire practices to include retired special education teachers. Austin ISD will incur all costs associated with the Teacher Retirement System for retired special education and bilingual education teachers who have been retired for at least 12 calendar months.”