After back-to-back school years that have been anything but normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across South Dakota are just a few weeks away from returning to the classroom for the 2021-22 term with yet another uncertainty to deal with.

The Associated Press is reporting that the state is dealing with a shortage of both teachers and support staff.

State Education Secretary Tiffany Sanderson says every school district in South Dakota is dealing with a lack of staffing for the upcoming school year.

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In all, there are nearly 120 unfilled positions for classroom teachers. The shortage is due to some teachers taking early retirement, in part because of COVID.

Districts across the state are also looking for additional staff to help students who need tutoring or special assistance to make up for lost learning during the pandemic.

To encourage more teachers to return to the classroom, the South Dakota Department of Education website is posting links for teachers to apply for loan forgiveness through the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

The shortage is also allowing borrowers who had no outstanding Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) on July 1, 1987, but who had an outstanding FFEL on July 1, 1993, to qualify for deferment of loan repayment under the Federal Stafford Loan Program anytime within the life of the borrower’s loan(s) for up to three years of service as a full-time teacher in a public or non-profit private elementary or secondary school in a teacher shortage area.

Federal shortage designations may also enable TEACH Grant recipients to fulfill their teaching obligation under the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program.

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