HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — School districts are dealing with many uncertainties of the pandemic, and substitute teachers are now needed more than ever as COVID-19 cases are on the rise.
“Finding substitute teachers is always a challenge, it’s a situation where it doesn’t pay that much,” said Rob D’Amico, Communications Director for the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
The pandemic is not making the situation any easier. D’Amico said while the pay is a challenge, the safety of being on campus is also brought into question.
“A lot of the substitutes are retirees who are older and might be facing health conditions so you combine those factors and it’s been really challenging and there haven’t been enough substitutes to fill the slots that are needed,” he said.
Donna ISD’s Superintendent, Hafedh Azaiez said they’re having to get creative to ensure there’s little disruption to the student’s education when a teacher is waiting for results or tests positive.
“To use our existing staff whether it’s with the help of a teacher assistant or another teacher who may have some flexibility in his/her schedule and then the last resort is really the substitute teacher,” he said.
Azaiez said substitutes are a last resort because it is difficult to find them, and as the need for substitute teachers rises, both D’Amico and Azaiez believe the COVID-19 vaccine could be the answer.
“I mean if it was up to me, I would get it done right now I mean get our teachers and our staff vaccinated,” said Azaiez.
D’Amico agrees educators need to be prioritized.
“There needs to be prioritization, number one, on vaccinating educators and you know Texas departed from the CDC guidelines and didn’t put them as the top tier of frontline workers,” said D’Amico.
As more people get vaccinated, educators are hopeful they are next in line to prevent teachers or students from getting the virus.