Kevin Rogers describes the efforts to staff classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic as a big puzzle.
The Lewisville ISD superintendent recently updated the Board of Trustees on the different challenges district leaders are facing when it comes to assigning teachers to classrooms and to virtual teaching roles while trying to maintain favorable teacher-to-student ratios at the same time.
“You’re just about ready to put that puzzle piece in and the whole puzzle shifts again,” Rogers said.
Rogers provided several examples of how the district is constantly moving pieces to make it work.
In kindergarten at one campus – he didn’t name the campus – there were 38 virtual students in the first nine weeks with two teachers each teaching 19 students. There were 55 in-person students with three teachers having class sizes of 18, 18 and 19.
In the second nine weeks, the number of virtual students dropped to 24 with in-person students jumping to 69. Rogers said there were multiple ways to handle the change. The district decided to have one teacher handle all 24 virtual students and four teachers split the class sizes for in-person – three teachers would have 17 students and one would have 18.
"These aren't easy decisions because we're having to move some students, and we don't like that," Rogers said. But that's just the situation that we're in."
At the same campus in third grade, virtual students dropped from 46 to 31, and in-person increased from 53 to 68. In that situation one teacher took on all 31 virtual students, with four teachers – a virtual teacher switched back to in-person – each having class sizes of 17.
(Thirty-one) is a lot,” Rogers said. “But in our mind that’s more do-able than overcrowding in-person.”
Other examples included combining fourth-grade virtual students at two campuses to allow a fourth teacher to teach in-person, giving each teacher 16 students, while one teacher handled 25 virtual students.
In a fifth-grade class at another school, two teachers each taught 27 virtual students in the first nine weeks, one teacher had 21 in-person students, and a fourth teacher helped in first grade.
When 11 virtual students moved to in-person in the second nine weeks, the district kept two virtual teachers (21 and 22 students apiece) and brought back the original fifth-grade teacher from first grade.
“This is not an easy deal to figure out in any one of these situations,” Rogers said.
Rogers said since July 1 there have been 171 resignations, with 21 of those – 18 teachers, three paraprofessionals – because of COVID-19. Amanda Brim, chief communications officer, said 171 is in line with previous years.
Rogers said there were 20 resignations the week of Oct. 5, but that’s only slightly more than the same week in 2019 when there were 15. Of those 20, there was just one that was related to COVID-19.
Rogers said there are 103 teachers working remotely because of a medical conditions.
“I know that sounds like a large number until you consider we have 6,500 employees,” Rogers said.
As far as open or hard to fill positions because of COVID-19 Rogers said there are 14 teaching positions and 58 support positions.
District officials said this is typical for this time of year, adding that several of the open teaching positions require a specific skill set from a candidate, so the positions take a little longer to fill.
Officials said the district is searching for candidates to fill the open positions.
“We have benefitted because there is some wiggle room trying to help cover that with online or virtual learning,” Rogers said.
Rogers said there are 124 permanent substitute positions that have been filled and four that remain open.
In the summer the board approved the expenditure of $750,000 to hire permanent subs – one for every elementary campus and two for every secondary campus.
“We absolutely are taking advantage of permanent subs,” Rogers said.
Rogers said it’s important that parents help the district by keeping their children home if they’re sick.
“Many of the cases where our staff or students are exposed or cases when parents knew that they were sick or the parent themselves were sick,” Rogers said. “We’ve had cases where the parent would send their child to school and the parent had lab-confirmed COVID. We need parents’ help to keep their kids at home if they’ve been exposed or if they have the symptoms for COVID-19.”