The continued presence of COVID-19 has impacted the state’s school staffing shortage.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said positions for teachers and support staff have been hard to keep filled lately.
“We had massive teacher and staff shortage prior to (the) pandemic, and while the pandemic may have escalated those numbers, we are seeing what we’ve never seen before,” Spar said.
He said data compiled by the FEA reveals the crippling effect the pandemic has had on school staffing, contributing even more to shortages school districts have faced since 2016.
“We started this school year with just under 5,000 vacancies among our teachers,” Spar continued. “We’re now closing in on about 5,100.”
To compare, the FEA only saw around 1,370 vacancies by the end of the school year in 2016.
He added schools are also having trouble finding substitutes due to the increasing stress and pressure of being a school employee during the pandemic, a job made worse by the politics and division exhibited in school boards across the state.
“It is driven by this narrative we are seeing at school board meetings,” Spar said.
The ongoing battle over mask mandates exacerbated the issue, he explained.
Despite a dip in COVID-19 cases statewide, he said educators and policymakers must work together to find a proactive solution.
“As a lot of scientists and medical professionals have said it all depends how we react to it. If those numbers start going back up, what are we going to do?” Spar said.