Virus Outbreak-Teacher Shortages

Now that California schools have welcomed students back to in-person learning, they face a new challenge: A shortage of teachers and all other staff, the likes of which some districts say they’ve never seen.

SAN FRANCISCO — One desperate California school district is sending flyers home in students’ lunchboxes, telling parents it’s “now hiring.” Elsewhere, principals are filling in as crossing guards, teachers are being offered signing bonuses and schools are moving back to online learning.

Now that schools have welcomed students back to classrooms, they face a new challenge: a shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some districts say they have never seen.

Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stress of teaching in the COVID-19 era has triggered a spike in retirements and resignations. Schools also need to hire staffers like tutors and special aides to make up for learning losses and more teachers to run online school for those not ready to return.

Teacher shortages and difficulties filling openings have been reported in Tennessee, New Jersey and South Dakota, where one district started the school year with 120 teacher vacancies. Across Texas, the main districts in Houston, Waco and elsewhere reported hundreds of teaching vacancies at the start of the year.

Several schools nationwide have had to shut classrooms because of a lack of teachers.

In Michigan, Eastpointe Community Schools abruptly moved its middle school back to remote learning this week because it doesn’t have enough teachers. The small district north of Detroit has 43 positions vacant — a quarter of its teaching staff. When several middle school teachers resigned without notice last week, the district shifted to online classes to avoid sending in unqualified substitutes, spokeswoman Caitlyn Kienitz said.

“You don’t want just an adult who can pass a background check, you want a teacher in front of your kids,” Kienitz said. “This is obviously not ideal, but we’re able to make sure they’re getting each subject area from a teacher certified to teach it.”

According to a June survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association, 32% said the pandemic drove them to plan to leave the profession earlier than expected. Another survey by the RAND Corp. said the pandemic exacerbated attrition, burnout and stress on teachers, who were almost twice as likely as other employed adults to feel frequent job-related stress and almost three times more likely to experience depression.

The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.

A school district in California’s West Contra Costa County is considering hiring out-of-state math educators to teach online while a substitute monitors students in person.

“This is the most acute shortage of labor we have ever had,” associate superintendent Tony Wold said. “We opened this year with 50 — that’s five-zero — teaching positions open. That means students are going to 50 classrooms that do not have a permanent teacher.”

There are an additional 100 openings for non-credentialed but critical staff like instructional aides — who help English learners and special needs students — custodians, cafeteria workers and others, Wold said.

California’s largest district, Los Angeles Unified with 600,000 students, has more than 500 teacher vacancies, a fivefold increase from previous years, spokeswoman Shannon Haber said.

(1) comment

Jimzan 2.0

""Necessity is the mother of Invention"" I personally see at home learning becoming more and more popular...that way all you really need is testing centers to verify that the child has done the work. I know people that have done their child's homework. I know a police officer whose wife took the test for him..(does that give you comfort?) If you demand testing centers "in person", with an extremely aggressive surveillance systems, and make sure the procedure cannot be corrupted "in any way" (they always find a way don't they[wink]) We can excel as a society...but until then let's just stick with the old system..."that is failing".

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