Updated: October 18, 2020 10:40 PM
Created: October 18, 2020 06:19 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The number of teacher vacancies at schools across the state decreased by 11 percent compared to last year, a new study by New Mexico State University finds. Despite the decrease, some are concerned that the pandemic could reverse that trend.
Lisa Prendergast, a local teacher, said she and her colleagues have serious health concerns about returning to the classroom as COVID cases spike across the state.
"We have tons of teachers who are looking at retiring over all of this,” Prendergast said. “We have teachers, like myself, who are in high-risk groups who are unable to attend in-person, and it's just unfortunate. We're going to have a lot of substitutes doing a lot of teaching, and that's not what's good for kids."
According to NMSU’s study, there were 889 educator vacancies this year. That number includes counselors, administrators, teacher aids and speech-language pathologists. Out of the total number of vacancies, 581 were teacher positions.
In a Friday press conference, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said the latest numbers were encouraging, but also acknowledged the concern that COVID-19 could increase those numbers as the school year goes on.
"There certainly is a worry and concern about how this pandemic plays out,” he said.
Stewart said they won’t know how it will play out until they see the latest data heading into the winter and spring months.
"We know that this pandemic is really creating a lot of uncertainty that's out there, and at this point it's hard to predict what the long-term would be,” he said. “Certainly my hope is between all of the work that we're doing both to create as healthy environment as we can to bring our educators back, to be very deliberate about how we do so, and the continued work that we are doing around our educator ecosystem generally—that we'll continue to see the progress that we're making on decreasing the vacancy rate continue into the future"
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