Principals filling in for teachers in classrooms at Garland ISD

Garland ISD says it's struggling to find substitute teachers during the pandemic.

Many of the subs in rotation are at high risk and are choosing to stay out of the classroom. As a result, administrators, like principals and assistant principals, are stepping in.

Garland ISD says it’s been through sub shortages before, but none as large as the one they’ve seen this fall. And with more than half of its subs not accepting jobs, administrators decided to step in.

After a socially distanced summer, students across Texas returned to campuses this fall. But Garland ISD officials noticed their substitutes were not.

Dr. Susanna Russell is the district’s chief leadership officer. She says the majority of their 1,000 subs are retired teachers or those who live with high-risk family members. They don’t feel comfortable setting foot in a classroom.

The district’s solution is to use district leaders and administrators as substitute teachers.

“We have over 200 volunteers who have committed one day a week to go sub at a particular campus and to fill where they have classes that they’re not covered at a particular campus,” Dr. Russell said.

Dr. Russell taught a class at Brandenburg Middle School on Monday. She and other district leaders say their top priority is getting as many kids back to learning face to face as possible.

At least one school in the Garland ISD is closed for remote learning this week.

Handley Elementary closed before the Thanksgiving holiday as staff cases rose. Students won’t return there until next Monday.

Mom Leticia Herrera’s kids don’t go to Handley, but she is concerned about the safety of her three kids.

“We do get a letter almost every week saying someone tested positive in the school building,” Herrera said.

And while she’d prefer her kids learn inside of a classroom, Herrera is bracing for a return to virtual learning.

“We’re prepared. We’re prepared. I have wifi at home. They have their Chromebooks,” she said. “So we’re prepared for it.”

But Dr. Russell says she doesn’t anticipate Garland ISD going fully remote.

The Texas Education Agency’s guidelines allow for individual schools to close for up to two weeks if the school cannot cover staffing.

“We’ll always abide by any order by the governor or from the commissioner of Education or from the health department,” Dr. Russell said. “But our goal is to keep our schools open and keep our kids learning.”