LEANDER, Texas - Unlike Spring Break last year when the COVID-19 surge shut down schools, students will start coming back to campuses on Monday.
While the focus in classrooms will be on graduation, hiring teachers for summer school and the fall semester is the new assignment for administrators.
Leander ISD has scheduled an online job fair for late April. "This is a crucial hiring time period for our district," said LISD spokesperson Matt Mitchell.
LISD is not anticipating a large number of early teacher retirements this year, but they are not ignoring it. "We are keeping an active eye on that, no question about it, because we understand how strenuous and exhausting in many ways this school year has been for our educators," said Mitchell.
The possibility of a mass Texas teacher exodus was raised in December with the release of a survey by insurance provider Horace Mann. 22% of those who responded said they were considering a new job, retiring, or taking a leave of absence because of COVID-19.
The survey was certainly a red flag according to Tyson Sanders with Horace Mann. "I think that’s a shocking number, you think about the education profession to even contemplate a fifth of educators leaving the profession is just a scary thought and I think was surprisingly high," said Sanders.
Special education teacher Sally McCulloch was among those thinking about making a change.
"I’m not quite ready to pull the plug, maybe if it was financially possible, for our family I might, we're not, I’m not there yet, I love what I do and it's where I’m supposed to be and I feel like I make a difference, so I want to keep doing it, longer, but I could see how people would be reaching burn out," said McCulloch.
Sally and several of her co-workers are taking a pass on working summer school. The time off, she says, will be used to recharge from the stress of teaching during the height of the pandemic.
"People are stressed out, parents are stressed out, teachers are stressed out, admin are stressed out, you know because there is so much different that we are not used to," said McCulloch.
Adjusting to COVID protocols and increasing school capacity may help districts retain teachers, but that’s no guarantee, according to Sanders.
"I think there is still so much unknown, even as vaccine roll out, I think certainly it makes a big difference in Texas that Teachers are eligible for vaccinations now, that TEA has sort of given individual districts to implement mask mandates, as they deem appropriate, I think its important districts listen to the educators and hear their concerns to make sure they are being addressed and providing for those educator's needs," said Sanders.
With that in mind, Leander ISD has extended some of its COVID modifications. "For instance, these early dismissals on Wednesday for teacher planning will continue into next year, that's been approved as part of the calendar for the 2021/22 school year by our Board of Trustees," said Mitchell.
To help transition from this school year and into the next year, summer school for Leander ISD will include online classes. How much in-person learning will be done is still being worked out.