FORT MYERS, Fla. — School districts throughout Southwest Florida are facing an uphill battle to hire teachers before the start of the new school year.
Spokesman, Rob Spicker for the School District of Lee County (SDLC) says it’s not just teachers. some districts like Lee County also need bus drivers.
The bottom line is the first day of school is less than a month away and most SWFL districts are stuck solving the issue of finding available and qualified teachers--
“Our goal is to always start the year with a certified teacher in every room it takes several hundred new teachers to do that. So that is ongoing...the target is moving so I couldn’t tell you today how many exactly we still need to fill, we will have a much better idea as we get closer to the end of the month,” said Spicker.
Spicker tells us that the district is using different hiring incentives to help bring more bus drivers to the district.
"We are in need of bus drivers to make sure that we can get every student to school and home from school on time. We have a number of incentives that eliminate the upfront cost for them and we have increased the benefits, we made medical and dental benefits available to bus drivers right from the get-go,” said Spicker.
The lack of teachers comes as school districts in Southwest Florida have moved away from COVID restrictions and are preparing for what should be a more normal-looking school year
If we take a look around Southwest Florida:
(Click each county for a link to job openings)
- Lee & Collier County- teachers/ bus drivers
- Hendry County- 13 teachers
- Charlotte County- 125 positions
- Glades County- 10 high school teachers
Glades County Superintendent, Dr. Alice Barfield says the need for teachers is widespread but can be even more difficult for smaller counties.
“We are not just competing with our county, we are competing with other surrounding counties in the area. for example, if you are in Moore Haven, you can be in Fort Myers in an hour or West Palm in an hour but between Moore Haven and Fort Myers you have Hendry County that they could go to, and between Moore Haven and West Palm you have Palm Beach County and they are able to pay their teachers a lot more," said Barfield.
Dr. Barfield tells us they are using incentives like offering to pay for a teacher's certification in order to get qualified teachers into their schools.
She says their smaller number of teachers needed shouldn't fool people into thinking their demands are less than other districts.
"In Glades County, that's a large number, because we are really having to pull from a non-exsistent workforce that's not here," said Dr. Barfield.
The first day of school for Glades and Lee County school districts is August 10.