PLYMOUTH, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — One of the biggest problems that unions and schools can agree on is the growing crisis of teacher shortages.

“It was a challenge last year, it is going to be a challenge this year, and probably for the foreseeable future,” says Wyoming Valley West School District Superintendent David Tosh.

Years ago, Wyoming Valley West School District would have 30 substitute teachers on a daily basis.

Tosh says now they are down to 5 to 10.

“Coming off of the gap due to the covid pandemic and the lack of substitute teachers, it’s something that we’re very worried about.”

At times, the district’s only option is to have one or two teachers supervise several classes in the auditorium with Chromebooks, hoping they do their work.

It’s something Tosh says parents have expressed their own concerns about.

“I told them, that’s not where we want them. But when we have a significant amount of teachers out because of sickness, we just don’t have anywhere to put (the students) at times if you don’t have a pool of substitute teachers.”

Their two saving graces?

The Act 86 program allows current students enrolled in a Pennsylvania-accredited college or university, pursuing teacher certification to work as a substitute teacher for a maximum of twenty days per school year.
And another program allows anyone who has earned a bachelor’s degree in any field of study to apply to become a guest teacher.

“I was skeptical how much it would help us. It’s been a godsend. I can think of three or four individuals that come in on a daily basis. We just assign them a building. That would be detrimental if we didn’t have the guest teacher program” said Tosh.

Another issue is the bus driver shortage.

Transportation Coordinator Anthony Dicton attributes three major reasons for the shortage: rising fuel costs, discipline on the bus, and licensing being difficult to obtain.

“When there’s a shortage of drivers, we have to double back on routes. So sometimes kids may have to wait a little longer at the bus stop, the driver will come, drop off the first round, loop back around and grab the other stop of kids and drop them off.”

You can check out the companion piece to this story in Wednesday’s edition of the Times Leader.