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Arizona schools chief Hoffman frustrated as teacher shortage rises

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is frustrated the state’s teacher shortage has deepened during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 28% of teacher vacancies were unfilled as of the end of August, up from 21% in 2019, according to a survey from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

COVID-19 worries played a big part in the rise, according to Hoffman.

“That is horrifying to me,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Thursday. “We’re seeing larger classroom sizes or other issues when having to combine classes because there’s not enough teachers to fill these positions.”

Hoffman said her concerns are amplified this year because extra precautions schools are taking to keep teachers and students safe from coronavirus can’t be fully executed because of the shortages.

Fewer teachers means larger classroom sizes and less ability for teachers to enforce rules set forth by public health officials.

Hoffman said she’s heard that some teachers are already feeling burnt out and overwhelmed despite not being that deep into the school year.

“There are a lot of different feelings and fears and concerns,” Hoffman said.

The Maricopa County Public Health Department reported 21 active COVID-19 outbreaks with 93 active cases at schools as of Thursday afternoon.

Arizona on Thursday saw its first day of more than 1,000 coronavirus cases since Sept. 18.

“I’m not in any kind of crisis or panic mode…I am worried,” Hoffman said.

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