S.C. school districts scramble to fill teaching vacancies as school year nears

SC for Ed says there are currently 1,054 vacant teaching jobs across the state

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Some schools across the state opened their doors  Monday for the first time since March, but some are still looking to fill their classrooms with teachers.

Teacher advocacy group SC for Ed is reporting 1,064 teaching vacancies statewide as of Monday. 

According to the data, Richland One currently has the most openings (134), followed by Charleston County (73), Berkeley County (64), Lancaster County (60), and Sumter County (41). Thirteen other districts, including Kershaw County (23), Lexington One (23), and Richland Two (22), have more than 20.

SC for ED says this data came from districts who posted their vacant teaching positions. The organization said it’s possible there could be more openings that haven’t been posted.

“It’s a vicious cycle, the fewer staff members you have at a school, the more likely it is that you’re going to have more burnout, and people are going to quit,” said Steve Nuzum, a teacher in Richland Two and the Legislative Coordinator for SC for Ed.

A spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Education says no district has come to them saying they are dangerously understaffed, but said the number of available personnel would be a factor in allowing schools to reopen.

Nuzum said understaffed schools were an issue before the pandemic, but says it could be challenging for some teachers to juggle all their responsibilities and maintain social distancing if more students are piling into their classrooms.

“With a lot of people already concerned about kids getting sick and getting sick themselves, to have the added stress of maybe going back and cover another teacher’s classes or to have a class get bigger because there’s simply not enough people to be in the room, it’s a concern,” Nuzum said.

With some teachers getting ready to carry more responsibilities as districts scramble to fill openings, Nuzum says the lingering fear of students or teachers potentially spreading the virus will be hard to ignore.

“I don’t want to be the one in my high school classrooms, especially, that makes my kids sick, or puts them in a seat next to somebody who could get them sick. We really feel responsible for what happens to these kids. Parents send them to us, we want to be able to do what’s best for them,” Nuzum said.

Based on DHEC and CDC guidance, the following counties currently have “medium” viral activity, meaning they can follow a hybrid model (some days in-person, some days virtual): Lexington, Horry, Marion, Spartanburg, Greenville, Pickens, and Oconee. “Low” disease activity means traditional learning should occur, while “high” (which 39 counties, including Richland, fall under) means virtual learning should occur.

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