LANCASTER, S.C. — As school districts across the Carolinas finalize plans for the coming school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more educators have been expressing their concerns over perceived safety in returning to the classroom.
"Not only do I worry about the teachers because I care about them but, look at it from a business standpoint," Lancaster County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said. "If we lose teachers how do we conduct school?"
A survey of more than 3,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers and parents found that 63% would have opted for Plan C, full remote learning, if they were given a choice.
Most schools are unable to guarantee that teachers who want a remote assignment will be given one.
Now Superintendent Phipps said he wouldn't be surprised by a teacher shortage this year — but he doesn't know who would step up if it happens.
"I don’t have substitutes knocking on the door saying can I come and work during COVID at your school," he said.
Both Carolinas have already had teacher shortages that pre-date COVID-19.
A Winthrop University study found that South Carolina schools reported 621 vacant teaching positions in 2018-19. A 16% increase over the year before.
A similar trend is happening in North Carolina, and those numbers are likely to get worse as teachers decide whether they feel safe enough to return.