PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It's been an issue in Arizona for years.

Schools facing serious teacher shortages, and COVID-19 isn't helping.

Justin Wing is with the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

He said that in the first month of this school year, more than 300 teachers either quit, retired, took a leave of absence or went on sabatical.

"COVID-19 has compounded the severe teacher shortage issue," Wing said. "About 25% of our teacher vacancies remain unfilled as schools have to leverage other means in order to have teaching going on in the classroom."

Schools are now scrambling to find subs, teacher aids and other qualified instructors, which isn't easy, since many part time educators are opting to avoid teaching and going into classrooms because of concerns about their health.

Dr. James Driscoll is assisitant superintendant of human resources with Mesa Public Schools.

He said that with so few options finding substitute teachers, a greater burden has fallen on current staff which is already overwhelmed by the ongoing health crisis.

"I hear stories from teachers saying how much time they are spending after school just to make it for the next day," said Driscoll. "Some are working until 11 or 12 at night just to prepare for the next day at school."

And things could get worse before they get better.

Educators worry that if COVID cases go up in the weeks ahead, more teachers will opt out.

"Whenever we lose quality teachers as we have, it upsets our system," said Driscol."

Wing said there is no quick fix to solving Arizona's teacher shortage, but there are things that could help.

Increase teacher teacher pay, do a better job recruiting and get more college students interested in education, said Wing.

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 

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