Austin ISD made several changes to its substitute teacher policies to attract new candidates amid a COVID-19-induced shortage. Increased pay and a lowered college credit requirement sparked a rise in substitute applications, according to district representatives at a school board meeting Jan. 27.
Leslie Stephens, AISD's chief of human capital, said the district received 597 new substitute applications since announcing the pay increase on Jan. 15. Prior to the announcement, they received an average of 10 applications a day.
Low student attendance means AISD has been able to combine classes to manage the teacher shortage. Central office staff have also served as on-call support for essential absences to address the substitute shortage, a policy that will continue in a limited capacity. The superintendent will expect office staff to serve as a substitute once a month as a way to stay connected to the district's classrooms.
Surrounding districts have closed schools because of staff shortages.
“We have not come close to that. That hasn’t been a thought,” Stephens said. “But there were a couple of days when we were getting a little nervous.”
Stephens acknowledged that the pandemic exacerbated the substitute shortage but did not create it. She said the district plans to continue growing its substitute pool by making sure pay is competitive, opening elementary and middle school substitute positions to candidates with under 60 college hours and using central office staff when necessary.