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Teacher shortages continue to plague San Diego County school districts

While new teacher hires is climbing since the pandemic, some local districts are having to get creative to bring in new teachers.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — School districts in San Diego County are struggling to cope with a shortage of teachers and failing to keep classrooms staffed with properly credentialed teachers, according to recent data from the California Department of Education.

The teacher shortage and the lack of credentialed teachers instructing students on the courses they are authorized to teach has forced some districts in the county to get creative with how it lures new teachers into their districts and, more importantly, how to keep them. 

According to state data obtained by CBS 8, San Diego County districts are hiring more new teachers to fill new or vacant positions since the outset of the pandemic. However, those numbers fall far short of per-pandemic numbers. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, local districts hired 2,420 new teachers. In the months before COVID-19 took hold in San Diego County, the number of new teachers dropped by more than 8,000 to just over 1,600 new teachers hired during the 2019-2020 school year. 

And as COVID-19 ravaged the county and students were forced to remote-learning, the numbers continued to drop.

Last year, during the 2021-2022 school year, San Diego County schools saw the fewest new teacher in five years, with only 1,382 new teachers entering county classrooms.

So far this year, that number has jumped back to 1,858, the most since the outset of the pandemic.

The shortage of new teachers forced districts to fill more and more classrooms with properly credentialed teachers, meaning fewer courses were taught by teachers with credentials for that class. 

But some districts, especially more rural districts, that have relied on teachers who can teach multiple subjects have been forced to look for new ways to attract new teachers and keep them for years to come. 

Dr. Rich Newman is the superintendent at Alpine Union School District.

He says he uses non-credentialed teachers, including interns from local universities to fill certain roles.

"When you have a teacher shortage you have a couple options. You can not fill positions or you can invest highly in your staff and bring people on…teach them, grow them so they grow in a position and get specialized in those areas,"said Dr. Newman.

To attract teachers and retain the ones they do have, the district just gave teachers a six percent raise this year.

"It's the largest salary increase our teachers have received in 20 years," said Newman.

But that is not all.

Alpine Union is offering increased health benefits, discounted childcare, with more incentives possibly to come.

“One of the innovative things we're looking to do in the coming years is offer housing to our staff," said Dr. Newman.

Dr. Newman has even brought in teachers from outside the country to fill the gaps.

"We took an innovative approach a couple years ago and met with the Embassy in Spain and we now bring over from Spain. This year 3 more teachers just came over to teach in our dual language program."

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