Schools across America are scrambling to prepare to reopen their classrooms this fall. But COVID concerns are not the only challenge they are facing. Many school officials said they are not sure they will have enough teachers.
In San Jose's Windmill Springs Elementary, kids are happy to get back at their desks in the classroom for summer school after a year of learning via Zoom. While they are all smiles under the masks, district administrators are scrambling behind the scenes.
"There's just not enough qualified credentialed teachers out there for us to hire," said Juan Cruz, Franklin McKinley superintendent.
Cruz is now spending his summer break recruiting and hiring teachers.
"I'm worried that come August 16, I won't have a teacher in every single classroom," Cruz said.
The website EdSource said the pandemic has blown a hole in an already leaking pipeline of qualified teachers. For years, the number of people enrolling in teacher-prep programs has been declining.
"It is very concerning," said Lorena Chavez, who runs the Bay Area branch of Teach for America. The agency tries to lure college graduates and those making career changes into classrooms with students of color.
The last few years of recruiting have been brutal.
"I specifically work here in the Bay Area and I can't tell you how big the need is," Chavez said. "We've never completely met the need as well."
Administrators said some teachers just got frustrated and retired. Others said distance learning opened their eyes to a brutal reality -- it is expensive to stay in the Bay Area.
"Some teachers, because they could teach remotely, moved out of the area and found places where they wanted to now stay," Cruz said. "And they moved out of state. Out of the Bay Area."
Teachers moved to communities where they can earn the same amount of money, but pay a fraction in rent or mortgage.
For local districts, this means a mad dash to find enough teachers for all their classes. For students, it might mean the person at the front of the class will still be learning while trying to do the job.