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School divisions race to find qualified teachers before first day of school

Dozens of teaching positions still are vacant less than three weeks before classes start.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) — With less than three weeks before students return to the classroom, school divisions in Hampton Roads are racing to fill vacant teaching positions.

School administrators are up against limited time and intense competition to find qualified people to teach. Scott Zigler, Executive Director of Human Resources at Portsmouth Public Schools said this year has been especially tough.

"The teacher shortage is getting more pronounced across the country, and in Virginia especially, we're finding it very difficult to find quality applicants who are certified and ready to go into the classroom," said Zigler.

Dozens of teaching positions still need to be filled in Hampton Roads. Portsmouth Public Schools is short 48 teachers, Norfolk Public Schools needs 27 more, Suffolk Public Schools is short 20 teachers and Virginia Beach City Public Schools still needs to find 51 qualified teachers before the first day of school.

“There’s a lot of competition to get teachers right now. There’s 7 districts nearby that are close distance,” Zigler said.

The competition has now led to school leaders recruiting teachers from out of state. On Friday, Aug. 17th, Portsmouth Public Schools is doing just that. The district is hosting an interview fair in Elizabeth City, North Carolina at the Fairfield Inn located at 1640 City Center Blvd. It’s from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and the district will be hiring qualified teachers on the spot.

The division is even offering candidates incentives, such as providing them $1,000 toward relocation costs. In addition, it's offering candidates $1,000 in cash advance, and it's arranged discounted rates toward their rent at certain apartment complexes in Portsmouth. If PPS is unable to fill the vacant positions, the immediate plan is to find long-term substitutes.

“We try to offer those long-term positions to either retired teachers or experienced long-term subs but our real hope is to get these positions filled within the next week,” said Zigler.

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