Potential teacher shortage in Yakima district

Potential teacher shortage in Yakima district

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A potential teacher shortage is staring at the Yakima School District. This, with kids due back in class in less than a month. There are more than 100 jobs open in the district. And, about half are for teachers.

District administrators are a little nervous with the school year so close and so many teaching jobs to fill. Teacher retirements are a big reason for the shortfall. Action News learned what contingency plans the district is making if it can't fill the jobs.

Carissa Fink has two grandchildren at Hoover Elementary School. She's nervous the district is looking for teachers with classes around the corner.
    
"I would hope they would have them filled so the classes can be arranged so students have the same teacher year round," said Fink.

The Yakima School District has around 60 teaching jobs open and another 60 for jobs such as bus drivers, bilingual specialists and more.

"It's a little unusual to have this many positions to fill," said Kelly Garza, Yakima Public Schools assistant superintendent for human resources.

It's an unusual situation that has two sides. State legislation reduced class sizes and the district received grants to hire more people.

"I think it's a wonderful thing they're actually back into looking for teachers and wanting the smaller class sizes for these kids," said Fink.

Yakima wound up in this unexpected situation when roughly 60 teachers resigned or retired this year. What's adding to the problem is that the district is having a hard time finding qualified teachers.
    
"Five, six years ago, districts were getting close to riffing and letting teachers go and now we don't have enough of them and we would like more," said Garza.
    
About 20 schools in the district have openings. The district wants teachers as soon as possible, but doesn't want to lower its standards.

"We've just got to make sure we're ready for the kids," Garza said. "It's the kids that really matter and that's why we're here."

If the positions aren't filled by the first day of school, the district will consider substitute teachers, shifting teachers around and even moving classes around as a last resort.

"A little nervous, I'm not going to say we're not," Fink said. "We're nervous, but you know, stay positive."

While they are nervous, administrators aren't panicked. They don't consider this a crisis situation. Besides the teaching openings, there are also jobs for cooks and an assistant principal.

The job openings are posted on the district's website here.

Action News talked to the teacher's union for its take on the situation. They said they believe it's a temporary problem and the district may need to look across the country to fill the jobs.