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Thousands Of North Texas Students Return To School Following Extended Break Due To COVID-19 Case Surge

KELLER and FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Thousands of North Texas students arrived back in class on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

This comes after a surge in COVID-19 cases kept my students at home along with teachers and support staff.

Many parents point to staffing shortages impacting their children's education.

"I've had one of my daughters talking about, oh my teacher was out so we sat in the hallway and did busy work for an hour instead of a class," said Adam Shultz, parent to two Keller ISD students.

Shultz said both his daughters contracted COVID-19 as they tested positive on Friday, "They caught it at school, I'm sure. It's going to happen, but it's just frustrating."

To help with staffing shortages, Keller ISD sent out a note on Friday asking for volunteers to help with support staff, not substitute teachers, and according to the district, more than 150 people have applied online.

Not all parents are on board with that strategy.

"If we're in the middle of a pandemic and we don't have enough staff, does it make sense to have more people coming in and exposure," said Keller ISD parent Piper Ogan, "I don't think putting my children at additional risk is the right answer."

At Fort Worth ISD, they've also stayed open during this latest surge in cases, but the district said they need more substitute teachers to fill in the gaps.

"We just don't have enough subs to cover and then we have some subs in the system that are also hesitant to take a job amidst the pandemic," said Raúl Peña,FWISD Chief Talent Officer.

The district has held several hiring events and offering bonuses such as $68,000 for a first year bilingual teacher.

"I did a little bit of hallway duty myself and we're helping in whatever areas that we can," said Peña.

Even with so many students and staff out, the priority is still in-person learning because it impacts each school district's finances.

"The challenge is funding, we don't get funding from the state for virtual instruction we are continuing to provide instruction for medically ill students whose families and students provide enough information for us to support them in that way," added Peña.

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