Pandemic worsens shortage of teachers in Lee County

Writer: Joey Pellegrino

A shortage of teachers posed a problem even before the pandemic, but it has become a much more stark issue.

Some teachers saw the pandemic as an opportunity to retire early, due to their own health concerns, while others saw it as a chance to change their profession.

“There is good and bad,” said Angela Pruitt, chief human resources officer for the Lee County School District. “The good is that I think it did help our retention, because I think people were hesitant to try new opportunities or move to different areas, so if you look at our raw retention, it is actually higher.”

That’s left Lee County Schools with a challenge: filling those vacancies before 10,000 online students transition back to in-person learning after the winter break.

Kevin Daly, president of the Teachers Association of Lee County, says that’s putting bigger class sizes and workloads on the current teachers. To help teachers feel safer in the classroom, he’s looking to help them move higher up in priority for the vaccine.

“I think there’s multiple things that can be done” Daly said. “I think federally we can get the CARES Act money down to schools directly so that they can pay for the unexpected consequences and expenses that came with the vaccine, the state can work to make educational employees up on the list, if the employees so choose to have it, and the state can also intervene and have another year of harmless testing.”

Pruitt says the district has also strengthened the support system in place for teachers, especially for the newer and younger teachers. The Lee School District says, in some cases, higher pay has been offered to help get teachers in the classroom.

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