LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Students are back to school in many districts, and the teacher shortage is an issue for many schools again this year.

There’s also a shortage of special education staff.

While the schools are struggling to get teachers, an even smaller number of those teachers are special education certified.

Districts in Ingham and Eaton counties are having to come up with new ways to fill these gaps.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide, there are at least 280,000 fewer public school teachers than there were before the pandemic.

Special education teachers and paraprofessionals are among the decline.

Ingham Intermediate and Eaton RESA are just a couple of the districts struggling to find staff.

“Yeah we have seen challenges with respect to teacher and educator shortage as we like to call it, throughout the system… Doesn’t matter whether it’s para pros, whether it’s other itinerate staff such as PTs, OTs, social workers, or teachers, there are major challenges with respect to an educator shortage,” said Ingham Intermediate Superintendent Jason Mellema.

Intermediate schools generally offer more specialized programs for kids in need, and they even staff the public schools in the area.

“Often the public schools rely on the intermediate school districts to find those staff, so it’s really our job to locate some of those special education teachers,” said Eaton RESA Superintendent Dr. Sean Williams.

And with not many coming down the pipeline, schools have had to come up with different ways to provide these student services.

“Teachers that are certified to be general education teachers that are getting emergency certified to teach special education, it’s a great interim fix, but it’s definitely not the longterm solution as we want as many highly qualified special education teachers in places we can,” Dr. Williams said.

Officials say one way to combat the shortage is with teacher preparation programs, but it will take some time.

“If we don’t continue to see better numbers in teacher preparation programs overall, we are going to have to continue to be creative to figure out how to attract candidates in to help kids,” Mellema said.

Officials say they are attempting to reach out to community members via social media in their search to fill these vacancies.