NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Due to COVID-19 cases and quarantine guidelines, North Texas schools districts are seeing a record number of teacher absences and are struggling to find enough substitutes.

While the demand for substitute teachers across the area is high, school districts say the pool of qualified and willing applicants this year is significantly down.

While most DFW school districts say finding substitutes this year has been harder, the CBS 11 I-Team found some districts are struggling far more than others to find substitutes.

The I-Team looked at the area’s 25 largest school districts to find out how often schools were able to find a substitute teacher when needed during the fall semester.

In six of the largest districts in North Texas (Mesquite ISD, Crowley ISD, Arlington ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, Fort Worth ISD), schools were unable to find a substitute to fill-in nearly half the time when a teacher was out.

Meanwhile, Keller ISD, Rockwall ISD, Frisco ISD, and Carrolton-Farmers Branch ISD reported a substitute fill-rate of more than 80%.

Dee Jay King, a substitute teacher in Arlington, said nearly every day this year she’s been asked to work.

“I’ve had four or five teachers try and contact me for the same day,” King said. “I’ve subbed all grade levels. I’ve done P.E. I’ve done music. There are enough jobs in the system where I could work every day.”

“Demand is up and supple is down,” said Fred Bentsen, the Texas director at ESS, a company that works with more than a half dozen North Texas school districts in placing substitute teachers. “It’s always hard for schools to find enough qualified substitute teachers for their classrooms. So you can imagine during Covid times, it’s even harder.”

In Mesquite ISD, where the substitute fill rate was 35% this fall, schools officials have increased pay and lowered requirements in an attempt to attract more substitutes. Mesquite ISD lowered the number of required college hours substitute teachers are required to have from 60 down to 30 hours. The district is also handing out $500 bonuses to substitutes who work at least 50 days.

Several North Texas school districts have increased substitute pay this year, although, many districts say it’s only had a minimal impact at best.

Starting in January, Dallas ISD increased substitute pay by $20 a day. The district also recently hired an outside firm to help find additional substitutes.

“We are doing everything we absolutely can to get substitutes into our schools,” said Juan Vega, deputy chief of human capital management for Dallas schools.

On the map below, click to find out the substitute fill rate for each district for the fall 2020 semester.

Also, there are links to how to apply to be a substitute teacher in each district.

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