ROCK HILL, SC (WSPA) — The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) released their Annual Educator Supply and Demand report.

They said approximately 6,000 teachers from did not return to teach in the same district they were in this fall. It is a 10% decrease compared to the number of departures reported last year.

Dedra Scherer had been at her school for more than a decade. She decided not to return this fall.

Scherer said, “I miss my kids. I miss teaching.”

The former high school science teacher said the COVID-19 pandemic played a huge role in her decision. She has family at high-risk of serious illness from the disease and did not want to put them in harm’s way.

She said, “I’m fortunate to be able to make this sort of decision. I worry about my colleagues who weren’t able to make this kind of decision.”

Dr. Julie Marshall spent nearly 30 years of her decorated career in public education. She said she wasn’t considering retiring this but once she realized teaching virtually gave her the creative freedom she was craving from her school she couldn’t go back.

“It’s all about teaching those kids and meeting those kids where they are and when I realized I couldn’t do that in the class room anymore – I started wondering why am I doing this at all,” she said.

According to the CERRA report, districts reported an increase of more than 140 vacant teaching/service positions for 2020-21 compared to last year. As of October/November this year, there were about 700 vacancies in SC public schools.

CERRA said with the growing impact of the pandemic, it was anticipated that districts would have more difficulty filling positions this year. The Palmetto State Teachers Association said the high number of vacancies concerns them.

Director of Governmental Affairs Patrick Kelly said, “Research shows the number one factor that drives in school student success is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. If a student doesn’t have a certified teacher, than they’ll be hard pressed to maximize their potential in school.”

Kelly added that legislators need to keep education a priority in 2021.

Scherer and Marshall said teachers in the state are longing for respect — especially with everything they’re dealing with right now. Marshall said, “Respect of their time, energy and them as individuals.”

CERRA plans to survey district personnel directors in early 2021 to further assess how the pandemic is affecting their teacher recruitment and retention efforts.