McKinney ISD teacher

Wolford fifth grade teacher Michele McGilvray welcomes students to her class on September 3, 2020.

Since students returned to McKinney ISD schools about two weeks ago, 15 employees have left the district.

Chad Teague, MISD chief human resources officer, said that number is rare.

“Usually, we lose maybe one whenever school starts back up for whatever reason,” he said. “So 15 is extremely rare.”

Five of those have been teachers, he said, and others were in paraprofessional positions. Both are jobs that, when open, require substitutes.

A McKinney ISD press release from Sept. 11 stated that the district is looking to hire qualified substitute teachers. Teague said with about 470 substitutes in the district’s sub pool, 110 have subbed so far this year.

“This year, we have seen a higher number of unfilled positions, which is concerning,” he said. “I think it's a direct relation to the number of subs that we have that are willing to take positions right now.”

MISD Human Resources Director Shelly Spaulding recently sent out a survey to enrolled district substitutes. With 113 responses, Spaudling said 99% said they were still interested in subbing.

However, 55% said they had picked up a job this year, and the 44% who had not taken a job mostly cited fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spaulding said.

“Some of it has to do with their own students who are still learning from home, so they're virtual learners, so they're having to be home to monitor them,” Spaulding said. “But the majority of it was just they didn't want to be sick. They were around people often that were high-risk, so they were just fearful of coming back.”

At the same time, Teague said, about 40 people are slated to be a part of the district’s next orientation.

Substitute teachers are not asked to fill in for virtual classrooms unless the job is long term, Teague said. The greatest need is on campuses, he said.

“It's mainly your in-classroom employees,” he said, “your teachers and your paraprofessionals. That's where our greatest need is.”

Teague said he anticipated a higher need for substitutes this year.

“We always need substitutes,” he said. “I'm anticipating a higher need simply because we are dealing with so much more at the campuses and in education, period.”

With a school year that has started in the midst of a global pandemic, substitute teachers are also learning the ropes when it comes to how school operations are impacted. Spaulding said Julie Blankenship, the district’s head nurse, fills substitute teachers in on the highlights of district precautions with regard to COVID-19, and the district professional development coordinator helps substitutes as well.

Teague said the district has hired for positions and that it is still looking to hire.

“The thing is, finding people in September after school's already started is always difficult,” he said.

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