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Local school districts working to retain, hire teachers to alleviate shortage

According to the National Education Association, there are about 300,000 fewer people working in the local public education sector than in February 2020.

MINNEAPOLIS — With the new school year fast approaching, school districts are scrambling to fill positions.

"Currently, we have 52 openings for teachers, 22 of which are special education teachers," said Kelly Wilson with Education Minnesota.

Kelly Wilson -- Education Minnesota's Osseo president -- says there have always been shortages, but the current situation is far worse following the pandemic.

"It's a continuation through pandemic of positions that weren't filled last year," he said.

A spokesperson with South Washington County Schools says most of their current openings are in special education, with 32 overall teaching positions still vacant.

For Minneapolis Public Schools, there are still 300 open positions across the board. A spokesperson with MPS tells KARE 11, "Our current vacancy numbers fluctuate daily as we work to get fully staffed by the beginning of the school year."

"Everyone is looking for staff, teachers, nurses -- anyone that wants to come to work in school is a hot commodity," said Wilson.

It's something that's popping up nationwide due to many different factors. There are more than 8,000 teacher vacancies in Florida, with Governor Ron DeSantis opting to recruit veterans to become temporary teachers.

Other schools here in Minnesota are thinking outside the box when it comes to hiring and retaining staff.

Tricia Menzhubr is the principal of St. John Paul II Catholic School in Minneapolis. She says they aren't seeing a lot of teacher turnovers, but they are growing in enrollment.

Two schools that are part of Ascension Catholic Academy, St. Peter Claver in St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood and St. John Paul II in northeast Minneapolis, are looking outside the traditional route to hire non-licensed teachers with specific qualifications.

When it comes to recruiting new teachers, Menzhubr said, "Even the state honors alternative pathways to licensure and other forms of experience that are professional and helpful in the classroom. We skip that alternative pathway to get the license, and instead, we look at qualifications from their resume, and being clear about the skill sets you want and seeing them in your candidates."

Whether it's recruiting new hires, Wilson says it's important to work on retaining teachers to alleviate future staffing issues.

"What kind of student loan debt can we cover, making sure we provide a decent salary but also other benefits, that will help keep people here."

Saint Paul Public Schools issued a statement saying: 

"Education is no different than other industries going through staffing shortages. At Saint Paul Public Schools, we have added a recruitment and retention team that is being funded in part by the American Rescue Plan. In the last few weeks, we have hired more than 100 quality educators. Our highest needs continue to be in Special Education and English Language teachers."

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