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Amid COVID-19 surge, Central Texas schools ask parents to be substitute teachers, bus drivers

Right now, Hays CISD is waiving the 30 college credit hours needed to qualify to be a substitute to speed up the process for community members who want to help.

AUSTIN, Texas — With the surge in COVID-19 cases causing staffing shortages, some school systems are asking parents to apply for paid substitute teacher and bus driver positions.

"Your mama's here, Madie," screamed Austin Jewish Academy Principal Chris Aguero.

Principal Aguero has been doing everything from wrangling students after school to getting in front of the class.

"I covered a humanities class this morning and taught grammar, parts of speech," said Aguero.

Like many school leaders, Aguero is doing whatever he can to keep in-person learning going at Austin Jewish Academy. Aguero said the school tests all 130 students along with staff twice a week for COVID-19, but they are still dealing with a staffing shortage due positive cases. 

"It's really tough on a day like today," said Aguero. "We have teachers who need to be home because they've had a positive diagnosis." 

Aguero said they have had difficulty finding substitute teachers during the pandemic, especially during this current surge in cases. They have been relying on parents to fill the gap. 

"Almost exclusively, we're using parents, only because they're the ones who are available," said Aguero.

Aguero said last school year they had about 12 parents available to sub, and this current semester, about five. 

Hays CISD is also calling on parents and anyone else who qualifies to fill paid sub jobs as soon as possible. Right now, the principal is waiving the 30-college-hour credit required to be a substitute to help speed up the process. 

"Is it better to have someone who didn't have the 30 college hours in the classroom teaching, or otherwise having those kids stay home?" said Hay CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy. "We think that it's better to have them in school."

Savoy said on Monday that the district needed 281 subs. That's 100 more than the district typically needed per day pre-pandemic. Savoy said Hays CISD also needs substitute bus drivers. On Monday, 18 bus drivers called out. 

Both education systems have similar criteria to fill gaps – pass a background check, fingerprinting and a quick training. 

"We also meet with them to figure out whether their position is the right position," said Aguero. "Just because someone is willing to come into a school, doesn't mean that they have the right skill set for that." 

For some parents, that's OK. 

"I think it's great," said Austin Jewish Academy parent Aron Wolinetz. "Parents here are definitely qualified." 

"It's always going to be best that someone who has gone to college and credentialed to do that is in the classroom, but I understand that days are tough," said Austin Jewish Academy parent Adrienne Darhower.

Savoy said guest teachers would have other staff members there to help them along the way. Hays CISD has three parents they expect to start substituting this week.

Savoy said the emotional and mental suffering the students went through during online learning is something they do not want to return to. 

For Hays CISD, anyone in the community can apply

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