Far before the COVID-19 pandemic, teacher shortages have plagued Palmetto State school districts.
A December 2019 report by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement identified 555 vacancies at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
That was an 11 percent improvement from the year before.
“I would be shocked, pleasantly shocked, but very surprised if we had fewer vacancies to start the school year than we did in the prior year,” said Patrick Kelly, VP of External Affairs with the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
ABC News 4 asked the Charleston County School District, the Berkeley County School District and the Dorchester District Two how many resignations each had from the beginning of the school year to present and if they were linked to COVID-19 concerns.
According to CCSD spokesperson Andy Pruitt, 18 teachers have resigned citing the virus as their reason for leaving.
At the BCSD, 11 classroom teachers submitted resignations of those 11, six cited COVID as a reason for leaving, according to district spokesperson Katie Tanner.
Per DD2 spokesperson Pat Raynor, 12 teachers have resigned and 20 are on long-term employment leave like FMLA. Raynor added that, “Employees have not necessarily attributed their reason for resigning or retiring to COVID-19.”
“When you start extrapolating numbers like that out across our state, you’re going to be looking at hundreds of teachers that have resigned since the start of the school year,” said Kelly.
Though none of the Tri-County school districts have cited teacher shortage concerns, with CCSD utilizing longterm subs for example, Kelly worries about the quality of education.
“You may have a body in the classroom, but you may not have the level of instruction that our students need,” he added.
Kelly now stresses school districts must continue making adjustments to better accommodate and retain its teachers.
“If we can’t find a way to maintain our teacher workforce, and to retain the great teachers in the state, we’re looking at not just a one year pandemic, but a multi-year problem that our education system is going to be trying to overcome.”
ABC News 4 asked all three Tri-County school districts how they are best accommodating teachers with COVID-19 concerns, answers varied from encouraging use of FMLA, smaller class sizes, specialized PPE and reassignment of job duties.
ABC News 4 also reached out to the South Carolina Department of Education but did not hear back.