Labor shortage creating bigger class sizes and longer bus rides

STAFFORD, Texas (KTRK) -- The labor shortage has made its way into the classroom, and it could impact your child's class size and bus route.

School districts across the area are looking to hire teachers and other staff members to fill the gaps where they need it most.

Stafford MSD told ABC13 it needs about a dozen teachers and people to work in its IT department.



"When March 2020 hit, that was the big time, or 'show time' as what we called it," said Jorge Rodriguez, the director of technology at Stafford MSD. "They added three new positions to be able to support our students and our staff even better than what we have been doing."

The district is also looking for more bus drivers.



The district's transportation supervisor, Juanita Sanchez, said she wasn't prepared to take on the role this year and said she fears how the shortage of drivers will impact students.

"[We're] the first face kids see in the morning and the last person they see at night," Sanchez explained. "They're on the bus route longer. Some of our drivers are having to double up. They'll complete a route, come back and help out with other routes that are open."

District officials told ABC13 they're able to make up the gap by utilizing extra shifts taken on by current drivers, and having other staff, including mechanics, serve as drivers.

The real issue is hiring teachers.

Stafford MSD human resources director Tera Bressler said it's something she's never experienced before.

"It's been pretty intense," she said.

If the district doesn't get its teacher positions filled soon, students could notice an impact.

"The kids don't get the one-on-one attention that they could have as thoroughly," Bressler said. "The teachers, staff and paraprofessionals do the best that they can with what they have."

Stafford MSD isn't alone. You can find openings for teachers all across southeast Texas.

The Texas Education Agency said kindergarten through fourth grade class sizes can't exceed 22 students. If it does, teachers must apply through a waiver and inform parents.

To help with the teacher shortage, many districts are turning to a TEA-approved solution: hiring people in the midst of earning a certificate.

It's called Alternative Teacher Certification.

There are several places in southeast Texas that offer the program. Inspire Texas is one of them.

"There is a misconception that an individual participating on an alternative certification program is not certified," Inspire Texas spokesperson Rene Ruiz explained. "The individual is actually under an intern certificate, which allows them to be certified in the period they're in the program."

Candidates must have a bachelor's degree. They receive several months of training and then become eligible to apply for a teaching internship.

In less than two years they can earn their certificate. Unlike traditional school, this pathway is earn while you learn.

"They are paid as a teacher because they are the teacher of records," Ruiz explained.

If you're interested in applying for an educator position, including at Stafford MSD, ABC13 partnered with Workforce Solutions for a virtual job fair. Simply, visit their website, and look for the "As Seen on ABC13" section.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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