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Some East Tennessee school districts navigate staff shortages as new school year gets underway

School leaders said this is a nationwide trend and East Tennessee is not immune.

TENNESSEE, USA — As the new school year gets underway, some districts are finding it harder to recruit and keep employees.

School leaders say this is a nationwide trend and East Tennessee is not immune.

"We're having trouble having applicants for what we call our classified positions, which are our cafeteria monitors, custodians, maintenance, educational assistants," said Ryan Sutton, director of communications for Anderson County Schools.

Sutton said the district isn't getting many applicants for those positions.

"I think one of the reasons is the commercial world is so competitive, and they can adjust their wages a lot quicker than a government entity," Sutton said.

Sutton said Anderson County Schools are not experiencing a shortage of teachers. 

"Teacher shortage nationwide is absolutely real but we've been lucky in that regard," Sutton added.

In Anderson County, four out of 645 teaching positions are currently vacant.

"That's less than 1%, so we feel super blessed," Sutton said.

Maryville City Schools are also not struggling to fill teaching positions.

"We're fortunate that we have all of our teaching positions filled," Maria Greene, communications and special projects coordinator for Maryville City Schools, said. 

All of Maryville's 404 teaching positions are staffed.

"[One] reason we hire and retain our teachers is because of the amazing support Maryville City Schools receives from our parents and our community," Greene added.

Maryville's six special education and 21 regular education bus routes are also all up and running.

In Knox County, however, finding bus drivers has been difficult. As of last week, Knox County Schools was short roughly 30 bus drivers.

Some drivers are picking up extra loads.

According to the district's director of transportation, Ryan Dillingham, all bus routes are running but it may take 15 to 45 minutes longer to get some kids home after school.

"Bus driving is not easy but it is incredibly rewarding," Dillingham said. "We have some wonderful bus drivers, wonderful bus contractors; you're not going to find people to care more about kids than the people that we have operating in Knox County. But it is a difficult job and one with that we don't have as many people like that as I would like right now."

Knox County offers a program to train incoming bus drivers in under six weeks. No prior experience is needed.

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