ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) – As teacher shortages abound, Round Rock ISD shared more about its alternative certification program. The program would allow teaching assistants to become certified to teach at no cost to themselves.

The district began offering this program within the last school year, and some of its applicants are now ready to teach this fall said Chief Human Resources Officer Eddie Curran.

The program allows assistants with bachelor’s degrees to take online courses and receive certification hours at their own pace. The district agreed to pay the certification costs if the applicant agreed to work for the district for a predetermined amount of time.

Curran estimates there are about 200 teacher positions open going into the 2022-23 school year, mostly specialized educators like special education teachers and those that teach CTE courses.

Curran said he is also hopeful this program will let those that may not have been able to afford the certification cost advance in their career.

“Sometimes that stretch is a barrier to somebody pursuing that certification,” said Curran.

There are many issues at the heart of the teacher shortage. President of teachers union Education Round Rock Ben Sterling said the pandemic presented drastic challenges to teachers already struggling with pay and work.

“You have teachers who are quite literally walking around with PTSD after last year, and that’s not an exaggeration,” said Sterling.

Sterling stresses recent tragedies like the Uvalde shooting at Robb Elementary also rocked the stumbling education field, reminding teachers they could lose their lives on the job while protecting their students.

“I have friends and relatives who were teachers who said that was it — they’ve been teaching for years, and they said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,'” said Sterling.

With Round Rock ISD returning for class on Aug. 17 and being down on teacher ranks, administrators and teachers said they are holding out hope shortages may end soon — maybe not this year, but they are hopeful for the next.