Progress made on teacher shortage at Yakima School District

YAKIMA, Wash. -- There's progress in the teacher shortage at the Yakima School District. Right now, more than a dozen jobs still need to be filled. That's down from about 60 a few weeks ago. But, classes start Wednesday.

It's almost time for kids at the Yakima School District to go back to school. But, some students won't start the year with a permanent teacher. The district still has 14 teaching jobs to fill.

"We need highly qualified candidates and so we really need to go through that process of making sure we have the right person in the classroom," said Yakima School District Superintendent Elaine Beraza.

Beraza says the district is interviewing candidates. The district is also recruiting at local universities and working with them to find graduates who want to teach.

Beraza isn't that concerned. But, Steve McKenna with the Yakima Education Association is. McKenna says it could take a while to fill the open jobs.

"There's three of those areas... Special education, math, science. There's a high demand for those kind of educators," said Yakima Education Association President Steve McKenna.

Beraza says there won't be an issue in the elementary schools. All of the teaching positions there have been filled.

Beraza says doubling up on classes will not happen at schools that have openings. But, some teachers might have to be shifted to cover for others.

No school is in a critical situation.

"It's not like they're all at one school and we have substitutes in all of those classrooms," said Beraza.

Beraza says part of the reason for the shortfall comes from smaller class sizes. For example, first grade classes have been reduced by an average of five kids per class.

District administrators say there were six teaching positions open at this time last year. The district still has to fill more than 30 other positions like bus drivers and coaches.