GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina is dealing with the largest number of teacher vacancies the state has seen since this data started being collected more than two decades ago.

Teacher advocates are warning about the lasting impact this all could have on the state’s education system, and the students.

According to the South Carolina Annual Educator Supply & Demand Report released in November, approximately 1,060 teaching/service positions were still vacant in September/October 2021.

This is an increase of more than 50% compared to last year and the largest number of vacancies reported by districts since the Supply and Demand Survey was first administered in 2001.

An afternoon with her kids is what Samantha Kelly gets to enjoy much more of now.

“There was a lot of uncertainty I guess and just kind of worked out where I could stay home for a little bit,” said Kelly, a mom and former teacher.

She was a teacher for a handful of years but didn’t go back after her maternity leave. She said that’s partially because there was a lot of uncertainty in 2020, especially in the classroom.

“At that point in time, we didn’t know as much as we do now so it was just a scary thought, I didn’t want to bring anything home to my kids,” Kelly explained.

She is far from alone.

“Over 1,000 classrooms in South Carolina started the school year with vacant teaching positions,” said Patrick Kelly with the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

Kelly said data collected in the report paints a very concerning picture: teachers are getting out of the business.

“The overwhelming reason is working conditions and COVID has exasperated that but the core reasons that have really diminished teacher working conditions, existed before COVID,” said Kelly.

The Greenville County School District is no exception to being left with teacher vacancies. Since September 1 of this year, 33 resigned, three of those retired. A spokesperson there said they have had 21 teachers start though since the first week of September. Also, 76 certified substitutes have started since that time.

You can find the full South Carolina Annual Educator Supply & Demand Report here.

South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman released a statement about the report, saying it is a “stark reminder of the tremendous challenge our schools face in recruiting and retaining classroom educators and should serve as a wake-up call for decision makers at the state and local levels to act quickly to make certain that every child is served by an outstanding teacher and reaches their full potential.”