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School year to begin in South Dakota with teacher shortage

August 4, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Education leaders in South Dakota say that as the new school year approaches the state doesn’t have enough teachers and support staff, a situation they attribute to the coronavirus pandemic.

State Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson says every school district in South Dakota is dealing with staffing shortages for the upcoming school year.

“The open positions right now, going into the school year 3 weeks away, we still have almost 120 unfilled positions for classroom teachers.”

Sanderson says some teachers decided to retire earlier than planned because of COVID-19. She says schools are also looking for additional staff to help students who need tutoring or special assistance to make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

Sioux Falls Superintendent Jane Stavem says her district is having trouble finding enough bus drivers and other support staff. Stavem says she is concerned the pandemic will make college students rethink pursuing a teaching career, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

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“The complexities that our staff dealt with in just the dailiness of teaching were immense and it was very exhausting. And, you know, it’s come and teach but you have all these other things if you were going into teaching you might be thinking twice about that, and we don’t want to lose people from the profession.”

Stavem says one way to recruit more teachers is to raise their salaries. The Sioux Falls school board voted in May to raise the base pay for new teachers from $37,000 to $41,000.