Staffing shortages hitting schools big and small
Students are back in the classroom in many school districts, but there are issues to address. One of the most important - hiring enough teachers.
The Miller School District, east of Pierre, is still repairing damage from a fire earlier this year.
However, Superintendent Eric Norden said there are bigger challenges facing the district.
“The staffing is really the scary part from here moving forward – I just don’t think there’s a lot of people going into it when it comes to the college students and there’s just going to be continued openings as we have more and more teachers retired and not enough people to fill those positions," Norden said. "We’re going to be able to make it through this year, but I’m just worried about the near future for everybody.”
Norden said it’s challenging to recruit teachers. Hand County is isolated with the closest cities of Pierre and Huron an hour away.
That geographic obstacle is burdened by competition from larger districts.
“I know even the big districts – Sioux Falls, Rapid City Area - struggle at times to fill out their teaching staff," Norden said. "It’s hitting everybody in the state.”
That sentiment is echoed by Justin Zajic, superintendent of the Chamberlain School District.
He said small-town appeal can be its own selling point.
“The cost of living is a lot less in Chamberlain when you compare it to Sioux Falls and Rapid, so we do have some great things going for us," Zajic said. "We do find if we get staff here, they really like the district, and they tend to stay just because of what we offer. We still stick to that small school feel. We take care of each other. Everybody in the community knows who you are, and everybody in the community looks out for each other.”
Zajic says when schools are understaffed, it can be a challenge to build rapport with students.
Both school districts have been forced to suspend some class offerings because of staffing shortages.