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School Districts, Bus Companies Still Hiring for School Year

Several superintendents say they are facing staffing shortages as they get ready to start the new school year.

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As Connecticut students prepare to head back to school, some school districts across the state are struggling to fill open job positions.

Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said she has heard from several school leaders who are not yet fully staffed.

“They have tried everything and they are just not able to fill, especially in the shortage areas," said Rabinowitz.

The shortage areas, Rabinowitz said, vary statewide. She said she has heard from one district that is having to scale back on world language classes at the middle school level because they don't have enough world language teachers.

Hartford Public Schools is still hiring for special education teachers, support staff, math teachers, etc.

“I do know that we are not fully staffed at all," said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.

Torres-Rodriguez said that Hartford is facing their regular hiring challenges, but now they also have 200 new positions to fill thanks to pandemic relief funding.

“It will require that we shift around and look at enrolment in classes and balance some of the enrolment in classes and perhaps across all of our schools," said Torres-Rodriguez. "They have tried everything and they are just not able to fill- especially in the shortage areas.”

In Colchester, the superintendent said his team is still struggling to hire substitute teachers.

“We would like to have a healthy pool of close to 75-100 substitutes and we are probably about half of that," said Jeffrey Burt, Superintendent of Colchester Public Schools.

Colchester is also impacted by a statewide school bus driver shortage.

"This crisis has been evolving for many, many years now. The pandemic times certainly exasperated this even more than it had been before," said Jon Hipsher with M&J Bus Company.

Hipsher said that M&J can easily hire 75 drivers right now. He estimates that number is much higher statewide.

“We will get everybody where they need to go. I would just say that we have to have that ongoing understanding and patience that we may be a little bit late," said Hipsher. "Patience really helps."

Rabinowitz said that the back-to-school hiring need is not new, but she said there are probably several factors behind this year's challenge including the pandemic.

“There’s a certain amount of fear of being in a school setting even though we have found the school setting to be the safest," said Rabinowitz.

While some school districts are offering hiring incentives, Rabinowitz said she believes education leaders need to look for long-term systemic solutions to address hiring.

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