Wichita Public Schools has nearly enough teachers for a change, but it says it stills needs more bus drivers.
Shannon Krysl, head of the district’s human resources department, says the number of teaching vacancies is the lowest it has been in years. Classes resume in Wichita on Aug. 14.
The district particularly used to have trouble hiring teachers for its special education program. Former paraeducators have filled many of those positions by transitioning into licensed teachers through a Teacher Apprentice Program at Wichita State University.
“We are down to 13 vacancies," Krysl said. "We have not had that few ... in probably four or five years."
While the need is generally low, there are still openings at all levels of schools. And Krysl said there are shortages this year in areas where they used to have too many applicants.
“This year, there’s a shortage of P.E. teachers in the state of Kansas,” Krysl said. “There’s also a shortage of science teachers in the state of Kansas right now, and so those kinds of vacancies, believe it or not, are really hard to fill.”
Krysl said that in previous years, there were too many physical education teachers and not enough open positions for all of them.
What has not changed is the need for bus drivers. The district has struggled with driver shortages for several years, and still does.
Last year, it started a partnership with Wichita Transit to open three new routes that allowed some high school students to take city buses to school while it searched for more school bus drivers.
“Necessity is the mother of invention, and so it really expedited the talks and the agreements,” Krysl said.
First Student contracts with the Wichita district and other Kansas districts to hire and manage bus drivers. It is still looking for drivers and is offering paid training to new hires.
Anyone interested in applying can call 316-832-9231 or go to First Students' website.
Kevin Benavides is an intern in the KMUW News Lab.