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St. Johns County School District deals with a staffing shortage triple threat

The nationwide labor shortage, mixed with the cost of living in the county and rise in student population, is leaving many open positions in the district.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The lack of employees is hitting school districts in a big way. However, St. Johns County's public school district is in an especially tough spot.

"It is a shortage we haven’t seen before," Superintendent Tim Forson told First Coast News. 

Whether it’s in the classroom, behind the bus wheel or in the cafeteria, filling schools with open positions is a district-wide problem. 

"It’s a theme seen throughout the state and nation," Forson said.

His county appears to be dealing with the trifecta of staffing shortage causes.

First, St. Johns County, like the rest of the nation, is dealing with an overall labor shortage. 

Secondly, there are more students in St. Johns County this year.

The county is growing rapidly. The student population here climbed seven percent this year. That’s double the usual growth.

"That’s growth faster than what we’ve done in previous years," Forson said.

And third, St. Johns County doesn’t have a lot of affordable housing, meaning some people who work in the county are less able to live here.

"That plays a role certainly in our ability to recruit teachers," Forson noted. "It’s expensive to live in St. Johns County."

According to Zillow, the average cost of a home in St. Johns County is more than $423,000. Compare that to the average home cost in Duval County of $256,000.

The average starting teacher salary in St. Johns County is $45,000.        

So Forson sent a letter to parents this week, asking them to consider applying to work for the school district. He’s never done that before.

"We’re hoping there’s are family members who are new to the area who are looking for work or are willing to work for the school district," Forson said. "You know, we’re competing with everybody else."

He says the goal is to not let this triple threat to staffing affect students. However, he said some students who need more support could get affected.

Additionally, employees who work in the district offices are now being placed in the classroom to teach and in the offices to help schools on site.