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'Beyond Crisis': How Educators Describe Staff Shortages At The Evanston/Skokie School District

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If your kids Thanksgiving break expanded by a few days, you are not alone.

Several districts in our area called this entire week off. Is this a trend we should expect to see more of?

CBS 2' Chris Tye reports from Evanston where parents are left scrambling. Because in some districts, it's being framed as "mental health" in others a "staffing shortage."

Some educators are calling the staff shortage a crisis, but that there may be some rule changes coming soon that could help solve it.

"We don't have enough substitutes anywhere."

Unlike a lot of problems, you can put a number on Illinois' educator shortage. As of Monday, there are 4,120 unfilled full-time positions in Illinois schools.

More than half of those unfilled seats are in Cook County. The problem is twice as bad as it was four years ago.

"Two years ago I used the word crisis. So, whatever is beyond crisis."

That crisis is why was quiet at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 on Monday. "Schools closed" today and tomorrow is the message on their website. In a letter to parents, the district said "we do not have adequate staffing or sub coverage."

"You're seeing this moment in the labor movement and the substitute shortage is part of that and its part of this demand for better paying jobs and better benefits for workers in general."

Walt Stalling was a substitute last year. This year he teaches at DePaul.

"There are many districts that have increased their wages because of the shortage. But it needs to be a living wage. There needs to be more long term contracts, stability," Stalling said.

"Some people are afraid to come back."

Educator Mark Klaisner of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents said rule changes surrounding the pandemic may soon be coming the way of subs.

"Perhaps we could be encouraging high school grads or college students and assigning them to mentors and shepherding them through," Klaisner said.

If approved, he thinks the problem could be remedied quickly.

"We are in demand in other markets. The fact I was able to leave that position and go straight to teaching college speaks to the skills that a lot of us possess," Stalling said.

Insiders said the number of 4,120 open positions isn't the number to focus on. Take that number and multiply it by 20. That's how many kids are feeling the shortage. Not just in Illinois. Similar school closings have happened in Michigan, Colorado and the state of Washington.

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