By Brittany Anderson
COVID-19 isn’t just causing shortages in hospitals and grocery stores — local schools are feeling the effects, too, as teachers and substitute teachers are out sick in record numbers due to the virus.
In a flyer posted to its Facebook page on Jan. 6, Hays CISD asked teacher-certified and eligible non-teacher certified parents to step in as ‘guest teachers’ to help fill the increasing need for substitute teachers in order for classrooms and campuses to remain open.
Per the flyer, the position provides competitive compensation, access to health insurance, ongoing training opportunities and bonus programs. Those who apply have to pass a fingerprint criminal background check and complete an orientation.
Additionally, if a principal knows and recommends an applicant, the district can waive the requirement of 30 or more college credit hours.
The demand for substitute teachers has maxed out the district’s sub pool, prompting this request.
According to HCISD chief communication officer Tim Savoy, in a normal year, the district has about 500 people in its pool of substitute teachers. The district started the 2021-2022 school year with only 100 subs due to the Delta variant, but have since increased the pool of approved subs to about 300.
Due to the Omicron variant, however, the demand for subs has also greatly increased. Savoy said that in a normal year — ‘pre-pandemic’ — the district typically saw about 180 to 185 requests for subs each day in the week after Christmas break. This year, that number of requests increased to 250 to 289 per day.
As of Jan. 14, Savoy said the number of sub requests had increased to 445. The district was only able to fill 43% of the positions with subs, with the rest being covered by campus and central office staff, as well as teachers being paid during their off-duty periods if they wanted to fill in.
There are also 537 active student cases and 102 active staff cases in the district as of Jan. 14, according to HCISD’s COVID dashboard data. Despite the sharp increase in daily reported cases after the recent holiday break, Savoy said that guest teachers are helping the district keep schools open — something that many parents and students have been vocal about being important — and so far, 16 parents have applied.
Savoy said it’s important to note that while it’s challenging to have the increased teacher absences, it’s a sign that people who have either tested positive, are showing symptoms or have come in close contact with a positive case are heeding the call to quarantine and doing their part in keeping the virus from spreading.
For more information on how to apply to be a guest teacher, visit www.hayscisd.net/applynewsub.