COLORADO SPRINGS — Nationwide teacher shortages are impacting schools as kids return to the classroom, including school districts in the Pikes Peak Region. However districts are doing what they can to make sure schools are staffed for when the school year returns.
Colorado Springs School District 11 will be back in the classroom in mid-August, but right now the district is short about 130 teachers, about 10% of overall employees.
“That's not to say we've never faced those shortages in the past, but this year, it seems to be at an all time high for certain positions.” said Devra Ashby, the Chief Communications Officer for the district.
Last school year, kids were getting used to being back in the classroom, re-introduced to learning in a classroom, transitioning from online learning, and having less flexibility in their day. It led to some teachers leaving their careers behind.
“We saw a whole host of social emotional problems and issues that were cropping up in our schools. and of course teachers are at the front of the classroom, and it was exhausting,” said Ashby. “We are still short on some of those special niche areas like special education teachers, math teachers, science teachers, psychologists, counselors.”
Ashby said they're confident class sizes and schedules won't be impacted because of teacher shortages. Meanwhile, they're also working closely with UCCS to get student teachers in fast track programs and internships to help the district.
“That's been very beneficial because we're able to funnel those students right into positions as soon as they graduate and get them into our district,” said Ashby.
“In their recruitment efforts, part of what they're doing is reaching out to programs like ours to recruit the kind of graduates they need,” said Dr. Daniel DeCells, the director of education at UCCS.
He said nationally, more than 30% of teachers leave the job in the first five years. Also happening nationally, there are fewer college students pursuing education as a career.
“Fortunately here at UCCS, we've actually seen a significant uptick, particularly in our inclusive elementary education program and our early childhood education program.” said Dr. DeCells, who mentioned there are more than 800 students in the College of Education on campus.
He also believes the programs at UCCS offer more job options after graduation. Plus, for many students, getting into teaching is a calling.
“Some of our more creative programs such as the inclusive degrees offer candidates multiple endorsement areas upon graduation so that they have more job options, said Dr.Cells. “Plus, I think there are a number of courageous folks who have seen what's going on in schools and have said, ‘I think we can do better, and I want to be part of the solution.’”
District 11 is also hosting a job fair Monday August 1st and Tuesday August 2nd, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. They're hiring people on the spot and offering $2,500 dollar sign on bonuses.
Tuesday’s events are being held at Holmes Middle School, on the west side of town, and Doherty high school, which is near the intersection of Barnes and Austin Bluffs.
A spokesperson from D49 also mentioned they are welcoming 150 new teachers to the district this school year. They are looking to hire more teachers with specialized skill sets and paraeducators, one of their greatest needs. The D49 board of education is also considering a proposal to improve compensation for paraeducators. If approved by, D49 will increase compensation for paraeducators by 14% or $2.34 per hour.
At this time, D49 does not plan to adjust classroom schedules.
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