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Substitute teachers in high demand amid rising COVID-19 cases

With students back to the classroom, substitutes and staff members are left to step in if teachers test positive.

AUSTIN, Texas — With winter break coming to an end, parents will be dropping off their children for in-person classes, but some are hesitant.

One of those parents is Mariette Hummel, who said her son will not be attending school on Wednesday. 

"We're basically flying blind tomorrow, sending our kids back to school, not knowing exactly what is going to happen," said Hummel. 

Hummel said a major component to keeping her son is home is because Austin ISD has left her with unanswered questions regarding safety protocols. 

However, the district reassures parents it is taking the necessary steps to keep students, staff and teachers safe. 

"We're going to be very cautious and we're also very confident that we can return to a safe environment. We know that students need to be in class to get the best benefits of our schools," said Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, AISD superintendent. 

Staffing issues for schools have already been impacted due to the pandemic, ultimately leaving school districts to have plans in place for what happens if teachers test positive. 

"The health director talked about how they're going to get creative when that happens. But we don't know what that means. I mean, in the fall, they got creative by splitting up my son's class and putting half in one classroom, half in the other classroom. But those are pretty tiny classrooms already," said Hummel. 

Since substitute teachers are already in high demand, sick calls can lead to staff having to pick up the pieces.

"It could be likely that I might be in a classroom at a high school nearby myself," said Elizalde. 

It's potentially leaving parents in the dark, not knowing who will teach their child.

"A friend of mine, her teacher tested positive this morning, so she's wondering, 'Well, what's going to happen tomorrow?'" stated Hummel. 

Austin ISD said testing is encouraged for teachers but not mandatory. They plan to keep classrooms open, and if cases are high in a particular room or school, they will make adjustments because safety comes first. Back-to-school testing on Monday and Tuesday yielded a 14.5% positivity rate, the school district announced late Tuesday.


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