School districts across the Northeast Kingdom and North Country are facing unprecedented hiring challenges and the reasons are many. Low starting pay, lack of housing, COVID burnout, and fewer teachers in the pipeline are just some of the factors. The result is a historic shortage of applicants. While the staffing crisis is not expected to dramatically impact education services this fall, some school districts are having to increase class sizes, hire more unlicensed staff, rely more heavily on virtual learning, and take other dramatic steps to make ends meet. The Orleans Central Supervisory Union plans to combine a total of 15 graded levels across four schools. That includes grades 3&4 and 6&7 at Orleans, 1&2 and 3&4 at Brownington, 2,3&4 and 5/6 at Albany and K&1 at Glover.OCSU is taking the dramatic step because they have more than 80 vacancies, approximately five times the normal amount. Elaine Collins, superintendent for the North Country Supervisory Union has seen increasingly fewer applicants over her 33-year career. To meet this challenge, NCUS has taken several steps. First, they are hiring more unlicensed teachers on an “emergency” or “provisional” basis. Those teachers are expected to work towards licensure while on the job.
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