National News from ABC

Schools turn to parents for help as omicron surge causes staff shortages

Jena Ardell/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- School staffing shortages caused by the recent COVID-19 omicron surge have gotten so bad in at least two school districts that officials are turning to parents to keep classes going.

The Palo Alto Unified School District in Palo Alto, California, made a plea amid its staffing shortage on Sunday when Superintendent Don Austin posted a video on the district's website announcing the "1 Palo Alto" initiative and asked parents to volunteer and work certain roles in the schools including food services, light custodial work, office assistance and classroom support.

"We can't keep up, there is no labor pool. No amount of money can solve this issue. We need your help," he said in the video.

Volunteers needed to be vaccinated and were subject to testing, Austin said. High school students who have free time in their schedule were also eligible to participate in the program.

Austin told ABC News that 659 volunteers have signed up for the program.

"This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in a while," he told ABC News.

Shailo Rao, a parent of two children in the Palo Alto district, told ABC San Francisco affiliate KGO that he volunteered because he didn't want students to miss out on in-person learning.

"I mean, we talk about essential services and somewhere along the way, schools got lost," Rao told KGO.

Austin said the program would run until the current surge in cases decreases and staffing is at higher levels. He didn't immediately provide more details to ABC News about the volunteers' duties.

The Hays Consolidated Independent School District, located southwest of Austin, Texas, announced a waiver of 30 college credit hours needed to qualify to be a substitute teacher and has been calling on parents and other adults to apply.

Tim Savoy, a spokesman for Hays CISD, told ABC Austin affiliate KVUE Monday that the district needed 281 substitutes due to the shortages.

"Is it better to have someone who didn't have the 30 college hours in the classroom teaching, or otherwise having those kids stay home? We think that it's better to have them in school," Savoy told KVUE.

As of Monday, there were three parents who were expected to act as subs this week, according to Savoy. He told the affiliate that the new substitutes would receive all the help they can from the full-time teachers and other staff.

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