RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The return to school is one month away for Capital Region students, and some districts continue to face a teacher shortage with concerns over recruitment and retention.
Dr. Amy Prabhakaran, Director of Pupil and Personnel Services for Rensselaer City Schools, said the district saw challenges hiring special education teachers, along with other teaching positions, ahead of the new school year.
“It looks like we’re in pretty good shape to fill the teaching positions but it is still notably less applicants,” Prabhakaran said. “A fewer pool of people to look at and determine that goodness of fit. It’s more challenging than it has been in past years.”
According to New York State United Teachers, enrollment in state teaching programs declined 53 percent since 2009. Prabhakaran said the district is also seeing challenges hiring for student support positions like school psychologists.
“We certainly have a shortage of school psychologists locally,” Prabhakaran said. “Those related services like speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, people that can service those variety of other areas aside from teaching and special education, we are having a shortage across the board.”
Prabhakaran said those gaps in staffing can impact students with disabilities and an increasing number of students struggling with mental health. Despite setbacks, the district has handled lapses in those services in the past to get students the help they need.
“For students with disabilities, we’ve spent a lot of time being really thoughtful and identifying what needs they have and those additional service providers, or the school psychologist, who is doing that evaluation helping to hone in on some of the actual needs of the student related to some of those programs and services,” Prabhakaran said. “Not having people staffed in those places does put a real strain on the system in having to juggle around people to meet those needs.”