Bay Area school districts desperate to hire teachers amid shortage made worse by COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Bay Area had a teacher shortage prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. With only a few weeks before students return to in-person learning, school districts are desperately trying to hire new teachers and staff.

The San Francisco Unified School District had a virtual hiring fair on Wednesday. This is one of two virtual hiring fairs put on by San Francisco Unified.

"We are looking to hire about 100 Special Ed Paraeducators for the school year," explained Jennifer Douglass of SFUSD.

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A paraeducator is someone who supports a certified teacher in the classroom. Just about every school district is seeing a similar shortage of educators.

We also spoke to Mount Diablo Unified School District.

"Last year we saw a lot of retirements and some resignations, educators choosing a different career path but we've also seen a lot of educators in Mount Diablo relocating," said principal Ryan Sheehy.

Living in an expensive region like the Bay Area makes it difficult to recruit people.

"The pay is low, but the feeling and that purpose that you are there is the reason why we stay," added JRay Madarang who has worked for five years as a paraeducator at SFUSD.

Mount Diablo will have an in-person hiring event this Saturday at the district offices from noon to five and next Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m.

A report from the Economic Policy Institute, shows that the projected supply of new teachers in the country will not meet the demand.

School districts are offering signing bonuses of up to $5,000, and will pick up the tab for the required credentialing program. Yet it's clearly not enough.

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Earlier this month, the governor signed Assembly Bill 130 which cuts the number of tests teachers must take to earn their credentials.

This concerns the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

"These teachers, who have not completed preparation for teaching, are likely to be less knowledgeable about how to close growing learning gaps caused by the pandemic crisis," the commission said.

But most districts are in favor of reducing these barriers.

"The more obstacles you put in the way, will just discount people from even wanting to pursue the career," said Douglass.

Some districts are now sponsoring teachers from other countries, especially in math, science and language programs . They call that the Exchange Visiting Program for Teachers.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.

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