DALLAS — It’s a call for help to keep schools running.
School districts across North Texas are calling on parents and eligible adults in the community to fill substitute vacancies.
It comes as 15 school districts across Dallas-Fort Worth have announced closures due to the COVID surge.
The Texas Education Agency reported nearly 38,251 COVID cases between students and staff at Texas public schools for the week ending in Jan. 7. This week’s data has not yet been released.
While Dallas ISD remains open, the district is facing staffing issues, just like others across North Texas.
Priscilla Soltren, executive director of Dallas ISD Human Capital Management, is tasked with hiring substitutes across the district. Soltren said it’s a challenge.
“Students, now more than ever, need adults that have passion, that have tenacity, resilience to step in during this time of need,” said Soltren.
Dallas ISD and other districts have begun offering incentives to attract more substitute teachers. Dallas ISD is offering an additional $50 to the daily substitution rate.
Soltren told WFAA the incentive is working.
“Our substitute applications have significantly increased. We’ve gotten about 100 applications since then, and also our substitutes that are accepting assignments has also increased since we introduced that incentive,” said Soltren.
Soltren said the hope is to fill vacancies quickly in order to ease the strain teachers have recently endured. While there’s an urgency, Soltren said Dallas ISD has a hiring process in place to screen and evaluate candidates.
“Any person that applies to be a substitute still undergoes our general hiring practice,” Soltren said. “That includes a background check and certifications check to ensure that all the folks that we are hiring in this time period are safe and that all your students are safe.”
Beyond the issue of securing enough substitutes, child care is a challenge for parents who need care amid school closures.
Kara Waddell, CEO of Child Care Associates in Tarrant County told WFAA that schools aren’t the only place getting hit with COVID infections. Early child care centers are also facing staffing challenges due to the rise in infections.
“It’s a stressful time,” Waddell said. "The child care space right now is incredibly tough. What we’re hearing from child care providers is that it’s a grueling limbo. They hate closing as much as parents hate to see those door close. They’re trying to stay health as well, so they’re nervous.”
As parents seek temporary child care, Waddell urges safety.
“Make sure that you’re putting children with a caregiver that is licensed with a great reputation or an adult that you know and trust well,” said Waddell.
YMCA centers across D-FW are standing by, prepared to help school districts with emergency child care if school closures extend beyond next week.
Jodi Newman, executive director of school age services for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas said they’re standing by to assist.
“We’re here if and when the need arises for child care, if and when we need to serve,” said Newman.
During the school closures in 2020, the YMCA’s emergency child care program helped students with remote learning. Newman told WFAA she hasn’t received any requests for help from any school districts in North Texas yet.
These days, it truly takes a village.
Click here to learn more about the YMCA's child care options.