CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Students return to the classroom in about 3 weeks, and Moshannon Valley School District says it still has several open positions to fill as it deals with difficulties in finding qualified candidates.

The district says it still needs an eighth-grade biology teacher, a school psychologist, personal care aids, contracted classroom assistants and other staff members.

“We’re still looking to fill the bulk of those positions,” Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger said. “We’ve had to fill a lot of positions in the past, [and] we’ve had candidates to fill them. The difference [now] is we have the same number of positions open that we have year-in and year-out. What we don’t have is candidates to fill them.”

The district said its teaching staff is in good shape with just one vacancy, and it said other districts are in similar positions.

But it said its supply of potential staff is down tremendously compared to its demand.

“Ten, 15 years ago, we’d get stacks of 25 applicants for one position. And it was really tough to decide on who you wanted to hire,” high school principal Kris Albright said. “Now, that stack is no longer there, and you’re scrambling to find one qualified person out of maybe nobody.”

Moshannon Valley said it’s looking at younger teachers, some straight out of college, and potential candidates who could be teacher-certified but are not certified yet.

But the district said because the candidate pool is lower, finding substitute teachers is tough.

“A lot of times, our administrators [or] principals cover classes,” Zesiger said. “A couple years ago, we had 20,000 teachers come into the profession in Pennsylvania, and I think the most recent data is six. New teachers [are] getting hired. They’re not spending a year or two as a sub.”

Zesiger added being in a rural area doesn’t help, either. He said in the usual teaching climate, his district would pull teachers from more urban districts to fill in as substitutes, but he said they just aren’t available with the current labor shortage.

Albright said because of the vacancies, however, there are a large number of opportunities for those interested in being teachers throughout Pennsylvania.

“It’s a great time to be in education, especially for young kids in school,” Albright said. “Ten, 15 years ago, it was very competitive to get a job in education. Now, with less applicants and more open positions, you have a better chance to get hired right out of college.”

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Zesiger said despite the district receiving more money last month after the state’s budget bill increased funding for public schools, that funding isn’t going to salaries just yet, but instead to school resources and programs.

“There will be academic resources, social and emotional resources, professional development and other things to support our teachers and support our students,” Zesiger said.

You can find open positions at the district on the school’s website.