School hasn’t been in session for Divide County School District students all week because too many staff are out with COVID.

“When you’re limited in the number of substitutes that you can count on plus the number of staff members who are out because of COVID, you just have no other choices,” Divide County School District Superintendent Dr. Sherlock Hirning said.

Hirning says he hopes they’ll return to class on Monday, but the rest of the week is off with no virtual learning.

Shortages aren’t unique to Divide County.

A survey of about 1,100 members of the state’s largest teachers union found 62 percent considering leaving the profession say the top reason is burnout.

“The survey basically confirmed what we’ve been hearing with teachers across the state and the fact is that they’re tired,” North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta said.

Archuleta says in addition to COVID creating challenges, actions by the legislature, like passing a bill banning critical race theory, adds political pressure to their job.

“Some politicians were accusing them of teaching kids to hate America. That’s not what teachers do,” Archuleta said.

State Sen. Donald Schaible (R-Mott) chairs the Senate’s education committee.

He says the legislature is on year three out of four of implementing a trial incentive program and alternative certificates for people to become certified to teach.

“We’ve had some success with both of them. And I think that’s one access is just finding people of expertise that might like to teach and having a pathway to do that,” Schaible said.

Schaible says he hopes more North Dakotans join the field.

“I don’t know where you find teachers. I think our best goal is to raise our own, grow our own, as you could say, and doing that, so I think we’re creating some incentives to do that to get future teachers interested in that field,” Schaible said.

In that survey, when asked if educators felt appreciated, just 5 percent responded yes, down from 55 percent in 2019.