CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's back-to-school time.
Classes begin Tuesday for students in U-46, Illinois' second-largest district. It covers all or part of eleven communities in the northwest suburbs including Bartlett, Elgin, St. Charles and Schaumburg.
There are 40 elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools. More than 37,000 students will be starting the fourth school year to be impacted by the pandemic.
But Supt. Dr. Tony Sanders said he feels more optimistic this year.
"I think the more we've gotten into COVID and vaccinations are widely available, treatments are available, and the continuing easing of restrictions from the CDC and the state are making it easier and easier for schools to feel a little bit more normal," he said.
U-46 and districts across the state are dealing with a shortage of teachers and bus drivers.
"For U-46, where we're really lacking staff is bilingual teachers and special education teachers. If we have a general education, elementary general education opening we have plenty of people to fill those vacancies," he said.
Sanders said they have about 100 teacher vacancies right now. He said the district will continue to look for teachers as the school year gets underway. As for bus drivers, they have enough, but are always looking for more.
Our Chicago: Part 2
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between February 2020 and May 2022, approximately 300,000 public school teachers and other staff left their jobs and the education profession.
A survey by the National Education Association in March found that 55% of teachers intend to leave the profession earlier than originally planned.
So, what's behind this?
Nancy Latham, associate dean of the College of Education and executive director of the Council on Teacher Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said there are many reasons for the departures.
"They are not just the pandemic. or just recent. I think for two or three decades we have been de-professionalizing the field of teaching. Both in how we look at teachers, how we blame the educational, our schools and our teachers for everything that is not the way that we think it should be," Latham said.