North Texas schools preparing for teacher shortage due to omicron surge

And as pediatric COVID-19 cases spread, there is growing concern about the impact that could have on North Texas schools. 

Like any other employer, school districts are dealing with lots of sick calls from both teachers and staffers.

Recent job fairs have led to dozens of new hires. And incentives are attracting much-needed substitute teachers.

As COVID cases continue to surge in North Texas, school districts are preparing for the possibility of a teacher shortage.

Robert Abel is Chief of Human Capital Management for Dallas ISD. He says the district has 2,200 active subs. He says financial incentives have helped to bolster numbers.

"We increased our substitute pay rate up to $100 for our non-degree and up to $110 for our degree of certification," he said.

Pediatric COVID-19 cases hit record high as students return to school

Plus, there’s an additional $50 per day through the first week of February. Dallas ISD has also hired an additional 300 teachers since Oct. 1.

Still, there are concerns.

"We're hearing from a lot of the employees that they are worried even though there are safety protocols in place," said Alliance AFT President Rena Honea.

Fort Worth ISD hired approximately 56 new teachers at its last in-person hiring fair. Currently, over 90% of teachers are present.

The district has also increased substitute pay another $5 for working on Mondays and an additional $10 for working Thursdays of Fridays, which are days with a high teacher absentee rate.

RELATED: Up to 15% of North Texas hospital workers out with COVID, DFW Hospital Council says

"This spring, we're incentivizing subs using a six weeks incentive where we pay them an additional bucket of money if they work a consecutive number of days per six weeks," said Fort Worth ISD Chief Talent Officer Raul Pena

Dr. Dawn Johnson is the medical director of primary care at Children's Health.

"We have had unprecedented numbers of parents calling for sick visits, requesting testing," she said.

Dr. Johnson says it's very important to create the safest environment possible so that kids can get back to the classroom and stay there without jeopardizing the health of faculty and staff as well. She says parents should lead by example.

"Those things include vaccinating them if they're eligible for the vaccine," she said. "Wearing masks during the high transmission periods like now because we know that there are lots of people infected with COVID."

If there are not enough teachers or substitutes to go around, administrators will be brought in to run the classroom in many cases.

Also, some schools may divide up classrooms if a teacher is out sick, sending those students to another teacher for that day.

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