Houston area schools are struggling to stay open as they combat staffing shortages, due in part to COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state. Houston ISD closed its campuses and offices Tuesday, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo raising the viral threat level to "Level 1: Red" last week .
The district confirmed it is also experiencing staff shortages, though exact numbers were not disclosed.
Houston ISD is currently reporting more than 3,000 active COVID-19 cases , including 2,445 students and 585 staff members. More than 194,00 students are currently enrolled in the district. HISD has reached out to other districts and sought talent outside the state to help educators in classrooms, the district stated Friday.
“To address current shortages, the district is paying recruitment and retention stipends to incentivize certified teachers to come to HISD, holding job fairs and hiring events, recruiting highly-certified teachers, partnering with colleges and universities not only in Texas, but in neighboring states such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Nevada,” the district stated. “The district has already begun to award letters of intent to hire teachers for the 2022-2023 school year and is hoping to send hundreds of these letters out over the next several months.”
Katy ISD is likewise experiencing teacher and substitute shortages, numbers which district staff said "continues to be fluid" but have remained in deficit since students returned to school from winter break. The district is currently reporting 1,544 active COVID-19 cases—about 2 percent of students and 1 percent of staff.
"Katy ISD is continuing to aggressively advertise and hire positions and we will be offering a job fair for certified teachers this spring," the district stated Friday, adding the district also currently has over 350 substitute applicants it is currently reviewing.
Sealy ISD in Brazos County also remained closed Tuesday due to staffing shortages and students calling in sick. The district has recorded more than 130 active cases since school returned on Jan. 3. "Obviously, like everywhere else during the Christmas break, our cases started coming in," Sealy ISD superintendent Bryan Hallmark said at a press conference Thursday. "Since we returned on Jan. 3, we had about 131 cases reported. Today, we have 93 active cases in the district [and] 19 of those are staff."
Conroe ISD recently reported it is in critical need of substitutes to fill in for teachers. The district recently asked parents to consider applying to become substitute teachers since the district is experiencing a higher number of teachers and staff staying home than at any other point of the pandemic so far, according to the Houston Chronicle. On Friday, the district was only able to fill 63 percent of its substitute positions.
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