Shortage of teachers likely in Panhandle

November 23, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Eastern Panhandle schools could be facing a teacher shortage as they try to deal with an enrollment boom over the next 12 years, according to a statewide teachers study.

A study by the Charleston-based Education Alliance predicts nearly one-third of West Virginia's teachers will retire between now and 2010.

While most of the state's school districts will be able to offset some of those losses with expected declines in student enrollment, the Eastern Panhandle school districts of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties are anticipating hikes in student enrollment.

According to the Tomorrows Teachers, The Future Supply and Demand for West Virginia Teachers: 1998-2010 study, the following is predicted over the next 12 years for the Eastern Panhandle:

* Berkeley County is expected to add about 2,300 students, bringing the district's total enrollment up to 14,614. The district could also be forced to replace 225 teachers eligible for retirement by the year 2010.


* Jefferson County student enrollment is predicted to grow by more than 1,000 students to reach 7,935 pupils. Researchers expect 218 of the county's teachers will be eligible for retirement.

* Morgan County is anticipated to have the slowest growth with the addition of less than 100 students. The study predicts 79 teachers will be able to retire by the year 2010.

Statewide, an estimated 6,921 of West Virginia's 22,638 teachers are expected to retire over the 12-year period, according to the study. The overall student enrollment for the state, however, is expected to decline from 301,314 in 1997 to 294,795 by 2010.

One of the study's co-authors, Arnie Margolin, said the projections for teacher retirements are the highest in a generation. An estimated 2,662 retired between 1985 and 1997 in West Virginia, compared with almost 7,000 expected to retire over the next 12 years, Margolin said.

West Virginia teachers must meet one of two requirements to qualify for retirement: They must be 55 years old and have 30 or more years of experience, or they must be at least 60 years old with five or more years of experience.

Margolin said the biggest teacher losses statewide are expected to come in English, math and social studies.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon was not surprised by the study results and said Berkeley County is taking steps to help ensure there will not be a major shortfall in teachers.

"We realize we are going to have to spend more time, energy and resources to recruit teachers," Arvon said.

While Morgan County is not expected to see the dramatic student growth predicted for Berkeley County, Morgan County Schools Superintendent Steven Paine said the retirement issue is still one that needs to be addressed.

Already having to compete with higher teacher salaries in neighboring counties, Paine said higher salaries could be a solution. The second answer, he said, could be loosening the state's teacher certification requirements.

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