Texas schools closing, incentivizing substitutes to help

Pflugerville ISD schools will be back open Tuesday morning after closing Friday and Monday due to COVID-induced staffing shortages. 

In a letter posted on the PfISD website, Superintendent Dr. Douglas Killian said in part, "the staff shortage has overwhelmed the district to the point that this closure is necessary." 

PfISD is one of many school districts in Central Texas that have temporarily closed or are taking other measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Shifting around staff at times hasn't been enough. 

"Maybe 30 to 40 percent of jobs were being filled, and you really need to have a fill rate somewhere in the 70s in order to be able to meet your needs on that particular school day," said August Plock, the president of the Pflugerville Educators Association

They’re hoping the temporary closure will help. But Plock asked the community to be patient and step in if they can. 

"You’re seeing a lot of fatigue and teachers are doing extra work this year trying to make up for what happened last year," said Plock. "It would be great if we could have a community effort where parents and other community members could potentially step in, so we could keep our public schools open." 

That’s the hope at Del Valle ISD as well. They are now offering new substitutes increased starting pay and the substitute application process has been simplified to expedite hiring. They’re also offering extra pay for paraprofessional staff that fill in as substitutes. 

"Just like I think about every other district around the county we are experiencing staff shortages," said Christopher Weddle, the executive director of communications at Del Valle ISD. "We want to ensure that we have someone in our classrooms able to fill in when teachers are absent." 

Del Valle ISD will also be hosting a job fair for interested substitute candidates on Thursday, Jan. 26, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Del Valle Opportunity Center.

At Austin ISD, as of Monday, they are excusing student absences that are due to COVID while the area remains is in Stage 5. For example, if a family decides to keep their child home for health reasons, they would qualify. "We understand families' concerns," said Eddie Villa, media relations specialist at AISD. "We want to provide that flexibility to our families." 

More information can be found here.

List of Central Texas school districts closed due to COVID-19
Teacher shortages: School districts ask staff members, others to fill in as substitutes
Texas schools ask parents to become substitute teachers amid COVID surge

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