CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Over 1,000 teacher positions sit empty across South Carolina’s school districts, according to data from a SCforEd report.
Horry County teacher vacancies are more than double what they were this time last year.
A long-awaited and debated school year is another day closer. Teacher vacancies are not anything new for school districts. However, COVID-19 is complicating things this year.
“I’m going into my sixth year of teaching, and I am more anxious about this year than my first year and all years combined,” Kendra Pennington, a Myrtle Beach Middle School teacher and SC for Ed Horry County Area Representative said.
Anxiety is on the rise going into a new school year. So much so, teacher vacancies in Horry County Schools (HCS) jumped from 19 during this time last year to 45 this year, according to this week’s data.
“Of course, it’s crazy, and it climbs every year, but it spiked this year,” Pennington said.
A low number of vacancies was an easy fix in years past. However, combining classes and class space isn’t an option anymore.
“With the way class sizes are now, it’s almost impossible to socially distance,” Pennington said. So, adding more kids to the mix is going to make it harder.”
The rising number of vacancies comes as teachers are retiring and leaving early. With much unknown about what this is going to look like, Pennington says several teachers don’t feel safe coming back to school.
“I know a lot of a lot of older teachers have retired earlier and I know people that go home to older parents or grandparents, immune-compromised, that don’t want to put them in that position,” Pennington said.
If open positions aren’t filled, school districts may look to rely on long-term substitute teachers.
Middle school students rotate among four teachers, and if one student tests positive, Pennington explains four teachers would be out for two weeks in quarantine.
“I think there will be such a need for subs that we will have to go back virtual,” Pennington said.
When to start, how to start, and now how to fill. Teachers don’t see a good option.
“We are trying to go with the safest one, but people are still suffering even though I think we’ve made the safest choice,” Pennington said.
An HCS spokesperson tells News13 substitutes are asked about their 2020-21 school year plans. Horry County currently has 1,281 substitute teachers.