RICHMOND, Va. -- With 639 teacher vacancies in Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico, Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras said his district would have to establish a strong substitute pool and combine some small classes if not enough teachers can be found by the beginning of the school year.
"We are seeing unprecedented numbers of teachers leaving the profession all across the country," Kamras said.
Darrell Turner works his dream job as a preschool teacher for Richmond Public Schools.
"There is no greater feeling than watching a child grow and develop and seeing that little lightbulb go off," Turner said.
But he is well aware that many of his colleagues across the country are leaving the teaching profession.
He said the COVID pandemic burned many of them out.
"It could be that if a colleague is out with COVID sometimes schools have to combine classes, other times teachers have to give up planning periods," Turner said.
Across our area, school systems struggle to find teachers to fill vacancies.
- Chesterfield: 232 teacher vacancies
- Henrico: 231 teacher vacancies
- Richmond: 176 teacher vacancies
Kamras said his district is doing everything it can to try to attract new teachers, offering incentives like a $6,000 moving stipend for any teacher moving here from greater than 50 miles away, and $4,000 for experienced teachers in critical shortage subjects.
"Experienced folks coming from 50 miles away could get up to $10,000 to come join the RPS family," Kamras said.
Some schools have been hit harder than others.
- Falling Creek Middle School in Chesterfield: 29 teacher vacancies
- River City Middle School in Richmond: 21 vacancies.
- Henderson Middle School in Richmond: 15 vacancies
"I'm a proponent of exit interviews. If someone is leaving ask a few questions about their experience," Turner said. "What are the staff saying because if you're having that many vacancies you want to look into what is going on."
But if enough teachers can't be found, RPS is "working on establishing a strong substitute pool looking at really small classes that we might be able to combine so we could close out a vacancy," Kamras said.
Those are stop-gap measures Turner hopes the system can avoid.
"The last thing you want is for your students to be in school and then all of the sudden they have a person in there for a few weeks and they're constantly having a revolving door." Turner said.
Kamras said RPS will spend money to pay for instructional assistants to complete course worki so they can get their teaching license.
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