PSRC faces another school year of shortages

·2 min read

Aug. 27—LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County is set to welcome students back to class on Monday in a slightly better position than one year prior, but still faces significant shortages.

According to the school district, of the estimated 1,355 teacher positions at the district's 38 schools, 85 of those are currently vacant. This number is lower, but not by much, from the previous school year opening with 90 vacant positions to fill.

To combat the shortage the PSRC school district increased the sign-on bonuses from $3,000 to $5,000 in the difficult-to-staff areas which are early childhood pre-kindergarten, kindergarten-6, math, science, and English Language Arts or English Language Learners. The exceptional children's teacher sign-on bonus is $7,500 and the school psychologist's is $10,000.

Statewide, vacancies are up since this time last year, according to EdNC.org. Data is available for 98 of 115 districts; in those districts, overall vacancies went from 7,638 to 9,677. Breaking that down, vacancies went from 954 to 1,570 in elementary schools; from 672 to 1,023 in middle schools; and from 728 to 1,024 in high schools.

Beyond the classroom, vacancies have increased from 253 to 354 for counselors, social workers and psychologists; from 3,900 to 4,364 for classified positions; and from 1,131 to 1,342 for bus drivers.

A total of 237 buses are set to go out on Monday, yet the PSRC school system has 49 bus driver vacancies, according to the PSRC school district. There are 7,958 students slated to ride those buses. This does not include new students who will enroll during the first 10 days, according to the school district.

To combat the shortage of drivers, the school district doubled routes and cut routes where possible.

"We have encouraged schools to hire classified personnel in dual roles — eg. driver/TA or custodian/driver," read a statement from the school district.

Driver pay has also increased to a minimum of $15 an hour — from the previous $13 an hour — and this also increased the pay scale for all drivers based on years of service.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at tsinclair@robesonian.com or 910-416-5865.