School systems across Texas and the entire U.S. have faced difficulties amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In North Texas, schools are still struggling to find staffing and have had to find alternative solutions.
According to CBS, schools have been combining classrooms, teachers and coaches have begun driving busses, and administrators and office staff are acting as substitutes for teachers.
While the pandemic contributed to the staffing shortage, it has been an ongoing issue for North Texas.
The Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services in Mesquite ISD, Mary Randall, said that the entire country is dealing with a lack of education employees.
“It’s not just a Texas thing. It is a nationwide problem,” Randall said. “We have a shortage of care professional employees and teaching assistants, clerical people. There’s a shortage of cafeteria workers, custodians, you name it.”
In Mesquite ISD, the school system is working to certify some of their long-term substitutes as teachers. Randall said they are also promoting from within, offering bonuses for new employees, and paying a competitive salary.
However, Randall said there is still a shortage of new teachers available to hire.
She told CBS, “We might go to a college or university, and there might be eight or ten candidates available, and you’ve got 30 to 50 recruiters there […] from different districts […] vying for these candidates.”
Dr. Kishawna Wiggins, the Recruiting Coordinator at Garland ISD, said the shortage does not just extend to teachers.
Wiggins said, “I don’t want to say it’s comforting, but it is comforting to know that everybody is feeling the same thing. We’re noticing teacher shortages, instructional aides, bus drivers, even mechanics.”
Wiggins told CBS that office staff and administrators have been working in the classroom one day a week.
She said this will continue “until we can get someone there part or full time. We step in where we have to.”
A professor at the University of North Texas, Dr. Stephen Waddell, spoke to CBS about the number of College of Education graduates. He said the school’s number of students had only fallen slightly, but the state’s education shortage is still growing.
“I’ve heard that recently 30 superintendents, they’re retiring, which is a larger number than it’s ever been,” Waddell told CBS.
He explained that there are several contributing factors to the shortage, including pay and job respect. He also spoke about teaching for standardized tests and said COVID is the most recent factor.
According to Waddell, the pandemic led older substitutes and teachers to retire. He added that he does not believe it is a crisis but that it should be addressed.
“I think that’s too big of a word. I think we’d be wrong to think it’s just going to blow over,” Waddell said.
He told CBS that while the pandemic was hard, it did come with lessons. One solution he mentioned going forward was a hybrid schedule that would have students at school for four days instead of five.
“I think great societies always seem to take advantage of difficult times,” Waddell said. “If we do this right, we could be better positioned for the last half of the 21st century.”