LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) -At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, there were 1,474 vacant teaching positions in South Carolina, according to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, including many in Laurens County School District 55.

“We have definitely seen it more with our early childhood and elementary education positions as well,” explained Dr. Ameca Thomas, the Superintendent of Laurens County School District 55. “We actually had to start the year off with vacancies in those areas.”

Thomas said the school district has worked to recruit new teachers and retain current ones, but they are still battling a shortage.

This month, the district partnered with Piedmont Technical College and Presbyterian College for the Dual Enrollment 2 + 2 Education Pathway Program. It is designed for students interested in becoming teachers.

“We just really want to provide whatever opportunities we can for our students in our district to give them a head start,” said Thomas.

As part of the program, high school students can take two years of college-level courses offered by Piedmont Technical College while in high school. After they graduate high school, they can enroll at Presbyterian College for an additional two years. The program is free for all students.

“It creates opportunities, even from a financial standpoint, because they don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of it,” said Thomas.

Thomas said she hopes the students who take part in the program will return to Laurens County to teach.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for our community because our students would be able to come back to the community they went to school in, serve and give back,” said Thomas. “The better the education in the community, it only enhances the community even more.”

Dr. Matt Vandenberg, the President of Presbyterian College, issued the following statement about the program:

“The strength of the American higher education system lies in its diversity. PC and Piedmont Tech tend to serve complementary roles within the higher education landscape, and when we partner together, we can address societal challenges in far more direct, powerful, and comprehensive ways. We are excited that this new partnership will help address the national and statewide teacher shortages by dramatically reducing some of the barriers to entry for students, including time and cost.”

Dr. Matt vandenBerg, Presbyterian College President

The district said registration for the program will begin this semester. Classes will begin in the Fall. Students and families can learn more by speaking with Laurens District 55 High School administrators or visiting the school’s website.