HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Class is in session, but some local school districts started the school year off with multiple staff openings and they are still struggling to fill them.
Every year, Holyoke Public Schools starts the year off with a few job openings, but this year, they have 19 teacher vacancies alone. School leaders told Western Mass News that the pandemic has played a big role in their struggles.
"So, it's been a really big challenge that we've been trying to problem-solve around, but our applicant pool is really small and qualified candidates are small,” said Holyoke Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Beth Gage.
Gage said the pandemic caused many teachers to retire or look for other work and she also said with schools receiving federal funding, districts are adding more positions. They are positions, she said, the schools could benefit from if only they could find the people to fill the openings.
"I think many districts used that money to create additional supports for both social and emotional learning and academic interventions. The challenge with that is we're all still fighting for this small pool of candidates and everybody is adding positions, which is just increasing the number of vacancies across the board,” Gage explained.
This year, one type of job has been especially hard to fill and that's the position of a paraeducator. Last year, Holyoke started the year with about five openings for paras and this year, they have 50 vacancies.
It's an issue happening in some districts across the state, according to Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
Western Mass News spoke with Cathy Mastronardi, the president of the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals. She said the reason there are so many openings is a positive one.
"A number of our paras are now licensed educators in the city of Springfield,” Mastronardi noted.
That's the case in Holyoke too.
"We have hired, we're estimating about three to four paras per year for the past couple of years. This year, we were able to promote 12 paraprofessionals into teaching roles,” Gage said.
Now, the district is ramping up their recruitment efforts in hopes of getting more people in the classroom helping students.