As the first day of class approaches, thousands of public schools are scrambling to fill vacant teaching positions. That is because a shortage of teachers is forcing many districts to adjust while offering unique incentives to attract educators.
"We're still recruiting as much as we can but needless to say when we're three weeks from the start of school, it's time to start looking at Plan B options, Dr. Brian Austin, Chief Human Resources Officer at Chesapeake Public Schools told CBN News.
Austin said his district is short of 60 teachers.
"We're seeing more retirements than frankly, we have incoming new hires," Austin explained.
The district is looking to fill the void with substitute teachers.
"We may have some situations where a sub that subbed for us on a daily basis, we may need to pull some of them in, in some long-term sub positions," said Diane Edwards, the district's Chief Academic Officer.
The problem of teacher shortages is nationwide, driven by the pandemic, burnout, low pay, ever-increasing demands and growing disrespect from both students and parents.
"As an elementary principal back in the 90s I would have a hundred to 150 applicants for kindergarten to second-grade position and I'm currently sitting at five," said Rich Appel, superintendent for Horicon, WI Public Schools.
Jim Strick of Neenah Joint School District said, "As of today we have 16 teaching openings for the upcoming year."
The state of Florida is seeing as many as 9,500 open teaching positions just weeks before the start of school according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Those who are leaving the classroom say the decision is hard.
"I was definitely very emotional about leaving the kids, but I just started to realize that I needed to do it for myself," said former first-grade teacher Aubriele Jarman.
The Economic Policy Institute also reports that the problem is only going to get worse. It predicts a nationwide shortfall of 300,000 teachers by 2024.
Desperate school districts are turning to extraordinary measures.
For example, Des Moines Public Schools is offering a $50,000 bonus to teachers, nurses and administrators who are nearing retirement to stay with the district through the 2022-2023 school year.
Florida's Department of Education now offers a temporary teaching certificate to military veterans who have not yet earned their bachelor's degree
The Dallas Independent School district recently set aside $51 million for salary increases and $52 million for retention bonuses for the new school year.
Like many districts, Chesapeake is raising teacher pay.
"Our starting salary this is year is $51,500," explained Austin. "That's up from last year's starting salary of $47,150. So, we've made teaching salaries a priority, and then also our classified staff had a 14 percent raise."
The district is also offering teachers the option to work virtually.
"We will open up our own virtual academy for our students in grade kindergarten all the way through high school," said Edwards. "We have teachers that absolutely thrived and loved teaching in a virtual setting."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education hopes to use money from the American Rescue Plan to help fill vacant teacher positions around the country.