OVERLAND PARK, Ks — It's back to in-person learning for thousands of students this week, but school districts are still struggling to fully staff their classrooms with teachers.
They are all asking the same tough question: How do we recruit and retain employees? Districts around the Kansas City metro said it is an on-going issue that is troubling schools nationwide.
“The challenge we face, and the challenge everybody faces is, there really aren’t that many candidates available,” Chief Communications Officer of the Shawnee Mission District David Smith said.
Smith is worried their 20 teacher vacancies will disrupt teacher to student ratios. While the district is recruiting substitute teachers to fill the spots, they want a more permanent solution soon.
“The more we know our kids, the more we can make sure our work directly addresses that specific kid’s needs,” Smith said.
The district has tried everything from job clinics to targeted advertising, to no avail. The Shawnee Mission Board of Education finally voted unanimously on Monday to approve four contracts with out-of-state agencies that will help fill the vacancies. The district will pay them around $3.5M in total.
“Often they’ll have temporary staff that they can supply,” Smith said. “When you don’t have a salary person in the position, there’s the savings there so it works out.”
Kansas City Public Schools also addressed the issue Wednesday night at its board meeting. KCPS is about 20 teachers short. Their shortages are especially in classes for English language learners, special education and math.
A member of the district said teachers have resigned, not because of COVID-19 policies, but because they are moving to areas with higher pay.
Meanwhile, back across state line, the Olathe School District is trying a different approach. They are looking for 160 paraprofessionals. The job fair for those positions will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Olathe South.
Across the board, educators in special education seem to be in high demand. Smith said this has always been the case because it requires special training and licensure.