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How Hillsborough County is addressing shortage of teachers

The county is in need of hundreds of teachers as most schools begin this week.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — It's back to school for many K-12 students this week as Hillsborough County Public Schools classes resume on Wednesday. 

Despite the approaching start date, there are still hundreds of teachers needed for hire and to fill up the classrooms. 

The teacher shortage problem won't delay the school bells from ringing. and Hillsborough County found some unconventional ways to continue educating students.

Three hundred certified HCPS employees are swapping out their cubicles for classrooms so that children are welcomed into classes during the first weeks of school.

Christie Gold works in human resources for HCPS, but for the next few weeks, she'll be teaching English classes at McLane Middle School in Brandon.

"We're supposed to be here for the first 20 days or until there's a teacher hired. Whichever comes first," she said. 

Gold was a teacher for nearly 20 years before transition to human resources four years ago. On Wednesday, she said that she'll welcome kids to class as their temporary teacher. 

Many schools across Hillsborough County are holding their open houses this week. Keisha Thompson, principle of McLane Middle School, said she knows parents and guardians will have questions about the temporary teachers brought in for the start of the school year.

"It poses a big challenge because a lot of it builds off of relationships," Thompson said. "Our students, especially middle school, wants to have a relationship with that person in the front of the room."

The Hillsborough County Teachers Association said it supports the use of county employees as teachers as a temporary solution. 

"It has a ripple effect on everyone's learning and what we can do to help meet those needs," Rob Kriete, HCTA president, said. 

Kriete said he hopes more long term solutions are established, and soon. 

The biggest obstacle in hiring teachers at a quicker pace comes down to money, according to Gold.

"They simply can't afford to live here on a teacher's salary," she said. 

Gold's department works to recruit teachers for the county. While she's pulled away from those duties now, she said the hardest part of getting teachers onboard is the the cost of living verses what the county can afford to pay. 

Hillsborough County has a property tax increase on the ballot for Aug. 23rd. Addison Davis, superintendent for HCPS, said it's needed to stay competitive with other counties. 

    

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