(WXYZ) — Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as kids head back to school is tricky enough, and many schools now have mask mandates, including all in Oakland and Macomb counties.
Districts are also navigating another big problem this year – shortages among teachers and other school staff. Some have been open for years.
"We are looking for highly motivated people," Dr. Yousseff Mosallam, the Crestwood Schools superintendent, said.
The district in Dearborn Heights has about 30 openings, including professionals, secretaries, food service employees, custodians, and of course, teachers.
In Woodhaven, Superintendent Mark Greathead is looking for secondary math teachers, support staff and more.
"We need teachers that are certified for both early childhood and in special education. It's a very difficult position for us to fill," Greathead said.
He said throughout the area, school districts are finding it hard to fill positions.
"I know from around the area elementary teachers that maybe schedule 3-4 people to come in for an interview and only one or two come in," Greathead said.
Eligible teachers they are finding are either under contract or work nearby.
"So we are running into issues where if we gain a math teacher, it's because another school district is losing a math teacher," he added.
With the many vacancies, school leaders say they are making progress, and with COVID-19 funds, they have brought on professional staff to bring down class sizes.
Both superintendents say the only way to fill the gap is to encourage high school students to get into teaching, and build stronger relationships with universities. Also, offer competitive pay.
"We did a lot of study and research to make sure the wages we are offering are competitive and leading the way because we want to support the best," Greathead said.
Both superintendents say that the shortage is not impacting class sizes. They are relying heavily on substitute teachers to help out, who they say a lot of them are retired/former teachers.