LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Local school districts are racing to hire teachers and other staff before school starts in less than eight weeks.

The pandemic drove teachers and other staff away from schools across Kentuckiana and across the country.

With a long list of job openings, Hardin County Schools is hiring for "basically, everything," according to district spokesperson John Wright.

Trying to fill more jobs this year than in years past can be traced to obstacles faced while navigating the pandemic, including online schooling.

"It's very high (vacancies) for June the 15th. We've got 140 certified positions that are still vacant right now."

More people decided to retire or change careers after making it through this school year.

"Our staff worked harder this year than they ever have, just because things were so different. They did an amazing job," said Wright. "But it's also taxing, especially if you're near the end of a career."

The Kentucky Education Association lists several factors driving a nationwide hiring shortage in public education.

"I don't think it's a surprise at all that there's a shortage, not only in Kentucky but nationwide," said KEA President Eddie Campbell. "Pay, professionalism, and the politics have just been piling on and piling on, and then the pandemic on top of that? Well, there you go."

So, what needs to change in order to bring employees back to schools?

"Pay is one of the big factors," said Campbell. "And it's not just teachers, but food service, bus drivers, custodians, school nurses, counselors, all those people are needed."

Jefferson County Public Schools is reporting fewer retirements this year, with the typical jobs in demand: bus drivers, housekeeping and teaching positions in math, science, special education and English as a second language.

"That's going to be the case, no matter what," said Aimee Green Webb, JCPS executive administrator of personnel.

She said the district anticipates even more openings with its next round of stimulus funding.

"(Principals) are considering adding teachers and staff to support students," she said.

Some school districts, including Hardin County, are considering pay raises to help draw people in.

"We always seem to make it (filling vacancies), and I have no doubt that we will this year as well," said Wright.

Most Kentucky schools reopen in mid-August, with some in Indiana returning in late July.

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