PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Heather Anderson has five kids in Pearland ISD, and noticed something unusual last school year.
"I know of situations where they were not able to find subs and had to spread out the children from that class to multiple classrooms, so they could still get the education they deserve for the day," Anderson said.
Pearland ISD isn't the only district in Texas experiencing issues when it comes to finding substitute teachers, according to Zeph Capo, the president of the Texas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Capo said the substitute pool dwindled across the board during the height of COVID-19.
"This was particularly difficult during the pandemic, especially in school districts like HISD and others," Capo explained. "A good number of the substitutes we depend on are actually retired teachers from the school district who were rightfully concerned (and) weren't willing to come into schools and classrooms."
While things are not at pre-pandemic levels, Capo said the substitute shortage is leveling off.
HISD said the number of applications they're receiving for substitutes each week is up significantly from the previous years, and Fort Bend, Cy Fair, and Pearland ISD said they aren't experiencing any shortage of substitutes.
In an effort to keep things that way, Pearland has turned to PTA volunteers as potential substitutes for the first time in the district's history.
"I thought it was great," Anderson said on her initial reaction to the concept.
Anderson is the president of the Sam Jamison Middle School PTA, which sent a letter to its members telling them about Pearland ISD's plan.
PTA members across the district had to apply by the end of September, and those selected had an orientation on Friday.
In a statement to ABC13, Pearland ISD said in part:
Pearland Independent School District is always looking for creative ways to recruit substitute teachers. These are individuals who are interested in making a positive impact on the life of students and helping them achieve their highest potential.
The district recently identified PTA volunteers as strong candidates to join the substitute team, due to their passion for education and connection with the campuses where they volunteer.
The pay ranges from $150 a day for certified educators working long-term shifts, to $80 a day for non-degreed parents working day-to-day.
Typical substitutes in the district must work a minimum of five days a month, but that's not the case for PTA parents.
The lowering of that standard is why Anderson, a former teacher, signed herself up to become a substitute.
"This might have given me the final nudge to go and offer what I know I'm good at, which is teaching, and doing it in the classroom more formally to help students in that respect, rather than just in the efforts I make volunteering in those campuses," she said.
So, what do outside experts think about this plan?
Capo said it's original, as well as beneficial if used on a short-term basis.
"Obviously, PTA members have the best interests. They're a stakeholder in the school, and the more you can have people invested in the school really does help that culture improve," he said. "But, they're not necessarily likely to have a whole lot of experience overseeing kids, especially on the curricular level."