COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A new report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) shows 677 teachers have left their jobs since October 2020.

CERRA completed a Supply and Demand update this month after releasing a full report in December. That report showed fewer teachers left their jobs in 2020, but school districts reported an increase in vacancies.

The February update from CERRA shows there are 515 vacant teacher positions. School districts reported 680 open jobs in October. They also said nearly 700 teachers left their jobs from October to February 2021.

South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said the number of educators leaving their jobs is concerning. “Alarm bells are going off like crazy” East said.

According to East, she believes the pandemic is hurting teacher retention in South Carolina.

“About 700 of them have made the decision to leave the classroom for one reason or the other. Right now, the only factor that’s different this year is the pandemic,” she said.

The South Carolina Department of Education said since a Supply and Demand update has never been released mid-year like this, there is no way to know if this number is above or below average.

Chief Communications Officer Ryan Brown said school districts have been reporting between 5 to 6 thousand departures a year.

“We’ve never asked school districts when is that happening. It’s most likely happening at the end of the school year,” Brown went on to say, “It’s interesting information, but unfortunately we don’t have anything to compare it to.”

According to Brown, these supply and demand reporters are very useful and helps the agency shape it’s legislative agenda. He said recruitment and retention remains a problem nationally and in South Carolina.

He said, “Money is a piece of it. Salaries, but if you talk to teachers they say it’s a respect issue and there are a ton of little things that can be done to address that.”

Brown said the agency has asked lawmakers for a teacher salary raise this year. The House has already passed a bill that would retroactively give teachers the step increase they missed out on last year because of the pandemic.