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Administrative staff fills in amid substitute teacher shortage at local school district

Northside ISD is taking an 'all hands on deck' approach to address the teacher shortage, including talks of lowering required college hours for sub candidates.

SAN ANTONIO — The principal of Garcia Middle School is wearing multiple hats these days to ensure students continue to learn after the return from winter break prompted challenges with filling teacher absences. 

“You’re looking at a principal that also did maintenance last week, did some cafeteria work last week and so when we meant all hands on deck last week, we meant all hands on deck,” said Dr. Mark Lopez.

“We had our librarian teaching classes, our administrative team, my assistant principal, my associate principal, my dean, covering dance classes and history classes and dance classes,” 

Garcia Middle School was averaging 20 teacher absences per day. 

“With about 17 plus or minus, maybe one or two, 17 unfilled teacher positions. That causes a lot of strain on us,” Lopez said.

Northside ISD spokesman Barry Perez noted substitute teachers filled about 60% of classrooms last week.

He stressed not all reasons for the teacher absences were COVID-related. 

The need for more subs is paramount, which is why district officials are considering changing some of the qualifications for potential hires.

The district’s qualifications for sub-candidates includes having a minimum of 90 college hours.

“Unfortunately, today is no better. In fact, we’re still in the mid to low 50s in terms of our fill rate,” Perez said. “One of the things that we have talked about is possibly lowering that number from 90 to something slightly lower so that again, we can increase that pool of potential candidates.”

Northside ISD is also dispatching central office staff to assist at any one of the 125 campuses where help is needed.

Garcia Middle School is among the campuses benefiting from the extra assistance as teachers gradually return to the classroom.

“Right now as a matter of fact, we have two central office helpers that are here filling in for subs with us in two of our content areas and so that helped tremendously,” Lopez said.