School officials across the region struggling to fill open positions within their districts

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Just because schools across the region are in full swing doesn’t necessarily mean they are fully staffed.

A number of districts across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have found that they’re struggling to fill a number of positions within their districts. Keith Perrigan, the Superintendent for Bristol Virginia Public Schools, said they’re looking to fill at least 20 positions in an on-site job fair.

The job fair is a new concept, but hopefully, one that will get them the staff they need and fast.

“This is something that we don’t typically do. COVID is obviously causing a lot of things to be different, and we’re just trying to adjust and adapt as we need to,” said Perrigan.

The fair was hosted from 4-7 p.m. on Monday at the school district’s central office. Although people who attended were able to get hired on-site, there’s always a need for substitute teachers and positions that weren’t filled. Eligible applicants can still apply to these positions.

Perrigan said they’ve had a hard time during the pandemic filling these open positions and he worries about what could happen if they don’t.

“Our concern is that we might have to make an adjustment if we continue to be short-staffed like we are,” said Perrigan.

While COVID-19 related staffing issues have yet to impact operations on their campuses, Perrigan hopes this job fair and being proactive in hiring keeps it that way.

Like many districts, hiring year-round is normal, but this many open positions at once is almost unheard of. Adequate staffing is also a problem being faced by Kingsport City Schools.

“This year, like other school systems and other employers, we are seeing that type of stress on our classified positions when it comes to keeping them fully staffed,” said Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Andy True.

True said there are incentives and signing bonuses for some of these open positions and they have at least 50 opportunities open right now. He said they’ve hosted job fairs in the past, and this year due to COVID-related staffing issues, they’ve gotten more creative with how they attract potential advocates.

True said they’ve advertised positions on radio, in newspapers and even on billboards. Still, there remains a number of open jobs within the district. While they’re able to operate without these positions currently filled, True said they need to be filled as soon as possible.

“Those types of positions are critical for ensuring that our school system functions efficiently and is the best possible learning environment for our students,” he said.

Meanwhile, Officials with Johnson City Schools said they’ve faired well when it comes to staffing, but of course, can always use more substitutes. You can apply for open positions within this school district here.

“We’re in pretty good shape. Again, our biggest need is for those part-time after-school positions and for substitutes right now,” said Johnson City Schools Human Resources Director, Lee Patterson.

Unicoi County Schools are also actively recruiting bus drivers and substitute teachers.

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