TEXAS -- In classrooms all across Texas students are being taught by a substitute teacher. Not because their regular teacher was out sick but because they don't have a permanent instructor.
- Proximity Learning platform functions like video chat system
- West Texas schools dealing with major teacher shortage
- Virtual system will be rolled out in coming weeks
There's a statewide teacher shortage, so the Texas Education Agency is offering a new round of grants, hoping to encourage a career in education. But some districts say they can't wait for those teachers to be trained, so they've opted for a virtual learning environment.
The Proximity Learning platform works like any video chat system.
"You have the teacher who's actually at home, who's working with the students. The students see her, she sees the students, and they raise their hand to answer questions. She has a white board, so she's actually going over the different math equations, and she's interacting with the students," said CEO Evan Erdberg.
Ector ISD in West Texas voted to implement a virtual learning system into four high school classrooms. They're desperate for full-time teachers.
"It's almost at a crisis level. We have about 240 teacher openings right now, teacher vacancies. We're not having much luck recruiting anybody out here and then we have a problem retaining them as well," said Mike Adkins with Ector ISD.
Erdberg says this is a problem statewide.
"You have 35 percent less teachers coming out of schools, you have the baby boomers - that's the largest population of teachers to date, that are in their sixties - and they're coming to retirement age, and they're taking it," said Erdberg.
The Texas Education Agency's grant program should help curb the issue by creating classes specifically for high school students with an interest in studying education in college.
"We know for a fact that for many of our districts, their future teachers are in their high school seats," said the TEA's Lauren Callahan.
But the grant doesn't solve the problem immediately, so students at Ector ISD will be logging in and testing out online.
"We'd love to see it be a really viable alternative to get teachers here temporarily until we're able to hire full-time certified teachers," Adkins said.
The virtual classes will roll out in Ector County in the next couple weeks.