The school year is closing in, and area districts are hiring.

The need for support personnel such as bus drivers is constant, according to several local districts. Many districts also have openings for instructors, especially in hard-to-fill areas like special education or the upper level maths and sciences.

Broken Arrow Public Schools has about 20 openings for bus drivers and around 30 jobs open for child nutrition staff, who prepare and serve meals. Celia Armstrong, human resources director for Broken Arrow Public Schools, said the district constantly advertises those support positions to account for attrition and to accommodate the school system’s growing size.

Tulsa Public Schools had about 30 openings for bus drivers and roughly another 30 openings for child nutrition staff as of late last week.

The summer break is Tulsa Public Schools’ primary obstacle to retaining bus drivers and child nutrition employees, said Bill Naftzger, director of support talent for the district.

Many employees must find other work during summer months. When school goes back into session, some decide to continue working for their summer employer where the job is year-round.

“It’s interesting, when people come to start working with children, for the most part they really enjoy it,” Naftzger said. “Once you do it you like it, but it’s that break in the summer that really hurts us.”

Split shifts and work days that may be shorter than eight hours can also be retention obstacles, he said.

Bus drivers typically work early in the morning for student pickup, take a long break, and then work again in the late afternoon for student drop off. For some people the schedule is perfect, but for others it does not work out, Naftzger said.

Child nutrition staff arrive at schools early to prepare and serve breakfast. Many stay over to prepare and serve lunch, but even so a large percentage of child nutrition employees do not work an 8-hour day, Naftzger said.

Naftzger points to increased job opportunities in the Tulsa area as having increased the district’s competition to hire qualified candidates.

“The number of applications has dropped off,” Naftzger said. “We used to see as unemployment went up, the number of applications went up. But we haven’t seen that as much. The quality of applicants isn’t what we would like.”

Tulsa Public Schools will hold a job fair Monday afternoon at East Central High School to help recruit. More than 120 positions are open in multiple fields. In addition to bus drivers and child nutrition workers, openings include jobs for clerks, secretaries, and for employees skilled in a variety of trades.

Tulsa Public Schools has many openings for teachers as well — currently the greatest need for instructors are in the areas of early childhood and elementary education, said Bradley Eddy, director of teacher talent for the district. Eddy is part of the district’s recruitment team and will focus on retention efforts during the upcoming school year.

As of late last week Tulsa Public Schools had more than 35 openings for elementary school teachers. Eddy said he believes the number of openings are primarily driven by the district’s large size — districtwide Tulsa Public Schools contains 38 elementary sites.

It’s also a challenge to fill special education teaching positions, Eddy said — on Friday Tulsa Public Schools had 18 such openings. Colleagues in many other districts have told him they also have difficulty hiring special education instructors, Eddy said.

Jay Loegering, associate director of human resources at Union Public Schools, and Adrienne Stout, human resources supervisor at Broken Arrow Public Schools, point to a statewide teacher shortage.

“I think we’re in line with the rest of the state,” Stout said. “There’s somewhat of a teacher shortage in areas like special education and science.”

Broken Arrow has around 50 open teaching positions, and as of late last week Union Public Schools had 22 open teacher positions.

“We do anticipate having most of those filled before the school year,” Loegering said. “If anyone is interested, we’re always looking for good people.”

Casey Smith 918-732-8106