Teachers are in high demand across the country. Here in North Dakota, school districts are finding it difficult to fill some of those open positions.

While it’s not clear the extent of the teacher shortage in Minot yet, what is clear are the areas impacted the most.

“Special education is one area, maths, science, music, language arts are all areas that when we used to get a lot of applicants when a job opening came up, we get fewer now,” said Superintendent of Minot Public Schools District, Dr. Mark Vollmer.

For a situation to be considered a shortage here in Minot there must be at least a 12 percent teacher absence.

Vollmer said that does not happen often but when it does it causes a strain on teachers in the schools.

That’s where substitute teachers come in. But they too have not been readily available — a situation worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We traditionally struggle to find substitute teachers. We’re constantly advertising for subs, some of our substitute teachers are retired teachers others have a degree and get a special substitution certification which they can get from the state, we’re grateful for all of them as well but we’re short of subs,” said Vollmer.

Vollmer said the situation is worsened by the cold and flu season.

Holly Eidsness was a teacher for 14 years. In 2017, she retired and occasionally, filled in for absent teachers when she was called upon.

“I was a middle school teacher most of my time. 7th and 8th-grade language arts. Now I am a co-president of a group called Delta Kappa Gamma which is a group of teachers,” Eidsness recalled.

Eidsness hasn’t subbed for some time now.

“There’s some like me who haven’t done a lot of it recently because of COVID and so on,” she said.

When subs are not found immediately, teachers are forced to stretch themselves thin including using their break times for school work.

Vollmer hopes new education students from Minot State University will make up for the need required in the school district.

“There are some avenues for a two-year degree or a four-year degree college education to get certified as a sub and we encourage people to do that as well,” said Vollmer.

Earlier this year the Education Standards and Practices Board declared a critical shortage in all content areas in the state.

The Economic Policy Institute warns this kind of shortage threatens students’ ability to learn, increases teacher turnovers and reduces effectiveness.