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AMERICAN FORK — With students returning to the classroom in the coming weeks, several Utah school districts report having almost enough teachers but severe staffing shortages elsewhere.
Alpine District hired 530 teachers to prepare for the school year and still has 20 open teaching positions, according to David Stephenson, the district's executive director of external relations and communications.
The district also needs to hire around 40 bus drivers and 80 nutrition service workers. Stephenson said the district is encouraging community members to consider working in transportation or lunch rooms to help ease the shortage.
It's a similar story in the Murray School District where schools are fully staffed with teachers. However, the district is dealing with its highest level ever, about 30 positions, of unfilled classroom assistance jobs.
"We also have an unprecedented number of paraprofessionals that we're in need of this year," said Doug Perry, spokesman for the Murray School District. "That's your teaching assistants, your lab aides, just the support personnel that really help keep the teacher's job as smooth and easy as possible."
The Canyons School District tells KSL-TV that is has 10 openings for teachers, which is normal for this time of year. The district is still looking to hire 175 part-time and 31 full-time educational support professionals.
A spokesperson for the Jordan School District reports that the district is in pretty good shape when it comes to teachers — except for special education teachers — but that the district really needs custodians, bus drivers and lunch staff.
We also have an unprecedented number of paraprofessionals that we're in need of this year.
–Doug Perry, spokesman for the Murray School District
The new leader of the Utah Education Association said she's aware of the immediate need to address shortages with school support staff, including substitute teachers and special education professionals.
"If you don't have a substitute for a class they call on teachers to go in and cover those classes," said UEA president Renée Pinkney. "So that just means that you as an educator don't have enough time to do your preparation for classes, or your grading for classes and meet all of the other expectations that you have."
Pinkney said she is still hearing concerns about teacher burnout and pandemic-related stress but that salary increases have made an impact.
"In Utah we have made pretty good progress as far as addressing the teacher shortage with some salary increases across the board," she said. "So we're starting to see an investment in terms of our compensation packages."
Staffing needs vary throughout the state, in Washington County the school district reports being nearly fully staffed with bus drivers but still needing to hire 31 teachers — 18 of those full-time positions.