Dae is watching Netflix at his desk during his health science class at LBJ Early College High School.
“It was pretty cool sophomore year,” the senior says of the LBJ program, which gives students practical training that leads to medical certification. Dae’s mom is a nursing assistant, and he thought he might like to become a registered nurse one day.
“Then we came back and it’s not the same … because we have no teacher,” he says. “So we don’t really do anything in this class.”
Brandon Wilson, a business teacher at LBJ, is monitoring the students today.
“They just told me this morning to come in here and cover the class,” he says. “[The students] have not been working on the curriculum, which is not good. I think they need to find something for them to do.”
There should be three health science teachers running this program, but this year there is only one. So, instead of being taught by registered nurses, Dae and his classmates have had substitute teachers who don’t have medical training. That means the students don’t get to use medical equipment, practice procedures on medical dummies or get the skills needed for certification.
Schools across the country are facing staffing shortages — among teachers, bus drivers and even cafeteria workers. LBJ High School is a case study in how the shortages are impacting students: 14 staff positions were open when the school year started in August.
At LBJ, the problem isn’t just in the health science program; students in English, business and special ed classes are all missing teachers.
“What happened to all the teachers?”
Principal Joseph Welch is running through what positions still need to be filled and the status of job interviews.
Welch, who started six weeks into the school year, says he wants to show employees and students he can help bring positive change quickly. Getting fully staffed is his first goal.
“You don’t want to come to school every day and not know who’s going to be sitting in front of you as a student,” he says. “You don’t want to come to school every day expecting to learn, but you’re sitting there on your phone because the substitute is just babysitting.”
Assistant Principal Ychacka Sells says it’s overwhelming to still be hiring teachers at this point.