‘It’s causing pandemonium:’ School staff shortage in Central Florida leaves classes without teachers

District officials are covering classes as hundreds of staff members call out sick

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – School districts across Central Florida say they’re scrambling to find people to fill in the classroom. A lack of substitute teachers, and staff shortages, now have some district leaders even jumping in to teach this year.

In Volusia County, Superintendent Scott Fritz said they’ve been averaging 500 to 700 staff absences daily since returning to school, and Tuesday was the first day they dropped below 500.

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“We do have some academic supports that we’ve put into schools and those people are going into classrooms first,” he said.

Fritz said in addition to the high number of absences they’re seeing in the pandemic, they also have about 100 job openings in the district.

“Everybody that’s certified at the district office that’s usually in a support role is out covering in classes,” he said.

The district has increased substitute pay from $10 to $13 an hour to try and get more in the door.

Other Central Florida districts are battling the issue, too.

Orange County Public Schools reported 553 staff members absent Tuesday and Seminole County schools said it’s recently seeing about 400 teachers on average calling out daily.

Those districts said they currently have support staff and administrators filling in classrooms, too.

“It’s causing pandemonium because we’ve got absences we can’t fill,” said Elizabeth Albert, president of the Volusia United Educators union.

Albert said teachers are getting burned out faster than ever. She said some have even had to cover multiple classes at once, they’re working longer hours and now, getting them to stick around isn’t easy.

“They’re finding that they have to prioritize themselves, they have to prioritize their own mental health and wellness, their families, and they’re leaving and they’re finding other places to go,” she said.

Fritz said they are trying new recruitment tactics but even finding new teachers out of college is getting tougher.

“A part of the challenge is across the country, some of those programs that have been large feeders for our system have shut their undergraduate programs down,” he said.

About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.