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Here's how Dallas-Fort Worth area districts are handling substitute teachers during the pandemic

Some districts are aiming to receive more applicants, whether it's attracting college students or by increasing sub pay.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

DALLAS — This fall will be unlike any previous semester for traditional teachers, and for substitute teachers filling in as well.

Districts in North Texas are searching for additional substitute teachers for this school year. Some are adding some extra encouragement to receive more applicants, such as incentivizing college students to apply or increasing sub pay.

Monty Exter, senior lobbyist at the Association of Texas Professional Educators, says that it’s a good move for districts to train substitutes early, especially with additional protocols to know compared to a regular school year.

"It's really wise for districts after they identify those subs to have some professional development on getting them up to speed on virtual learning platforms so they can more seamlessly step in and take over a class for a period of time," Exter said.

Exter says many of the substitute positions are traditionally filled with retired teachers, who may now be hesitant to be face-to-face with students due to underlying health conditions.

Lake Dallas ISD says the pandemic has made it more difficult to attract substitutes, leaving the district short by 30 to 40 substitutes, district officials said.

“Like school districts across the nation, Lake Dallas ISD has seen a notable decrease in the amount of applicants for substitute positions," said Executive Director of Human Resources Karla Landrum. "Many groups who are typically eager to substitute teach, such as retired teachers, have not applied this year, likely because of COVID-19 concerns.”

Lake Dallas ISD is encouraging college students to apply, especially those who are considering a career in education.

This school year, Lewisville ISD increased pay rates for substitute teachers to be better in line with market rates, Chief Communications Officer Amanda Brim said. The district will have more than 80 full-time subs to assign to specific campuses each day. In-person learning will begin Sept. 8 for students who chose that route.

"Each year there are some areas of the district where we have a difficult time filling the number of substitutes needed," Brim said. "It is challenging to say now what the need may be for substitutes throughout the school year, or what type of fill-rate we may have."

Dallas ISD has over 2,000 active substitutes and plans to hire 75 per week as the school year continues.

Fort Worth ISD is relying on the district's long-term sub pool for spots that will need to be filled this semester. The regular sub pool will not be utilized while virtual learning is in place, said Executive Director of External & Emergency Communications Clint Bond.

The long-term subs, as well as regular teaching staff, will report on Aug. 31 for training, he said.

Garland ISD has 830 substitutes and is continuing to recruit about 200 more, said Tiffany Veno, Interim Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations.

Plano ISD says there are 900 substitutes in their pool, which is not any different than previous years, said Executive Director of Communications Lesley Range-Stanton.

Frisco ISD also says that long-term subs are being used for typical absences, such as maternity leave or recovery from a medical procedure. 

"Short-term or daily substitute needs are mostly being covered by existing campus staff at this time since the school year has just started and teachers are still getting to know their students and their needs, establishing class routines and expectations, etc.," said Assistant Communications Director Meghan Cone. "Virtual instruction also presents some additional steps for campuses and substitutes. As a result, when the need for a substitute is for a short period of time, campuses are often leveraging existing staff to cover their needs."