School districts across our area are scrambling to fill job openings right now after an unprecedented number of employees left the profession. The exodus follows a grueling year on campuses - where the pandemic made a tough job even tougher.
Midway, Waco and Killeen school districts are just a few that are dealing with hiring a large number of teachers.
There are less than 60 days until the first day of school for many Central Texan students where Texas public schools will be 100 percent back in the classroom -- A drastic change compared to last year.
"We know we can do better academic work and catch up, and it wouldn't be such a stressor and such a toll on our teachers," said Traci Marlin, spokeswoman for Midway Independent School District.
The numbers of teachers still around shows just how hard last year was for them.
"I know that people are really tired," said Dr. Josie Gutierrez, Waco Independent School District's assistant superintendent for human resources.
Waco ISD's teacher turnover rate is higher than last year, but the number is trending to what they had in previous years.
"Our commitment is to have a teacher in every classroom when we open the doors in August and that is a widely important goal of ours," Gutierrez added.
The problem isn't how many they need to hire -- it's that they just can't find the people, like everyone else.
"My staff was on a job fair this week and there were over a 100 districts on that job fair because they have a great need for teachers; it's not just Waco ISD, absolutely not," she said.
Many educators left the profession after the pandemic made a tough job even tougher.
Midway ISD had twice as many people retire or quit this year than in a normal school year.
"Anecdotally, the things we heard were a little bit of fear from COVID[-19], some people were retiring for health reasons, some were resigning or retiring from fatigue, some really have opportunities to do other work with the way that the work force is right now -- they can do more work from home options or more flexibility," Marlin explained.
The biggest school district in Central Texas is Killeen Independent School District and it is looking to hire 200-plus teachers.
But, it's not easy.
Schools are having to get creative to bring people in like bonuses, referral programs and searching statewide.
"If you're new to Killeen ISD, you'll get an immediate $1,000 for being a professional higher or $500 for being an auxiliary hourly employee," said Taina Maya, spokeswoman for Killeen ISD.
Maya says the district had at least 14 interviews for teaching positions Thursday.
And like all districts in the state, they're searching through a small pool of people, in hopes or being fully staffed come the first day of school.