HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A bonus to stay in schools. There’s an effort to retain teachers and staff in Hartford amid a national staffing shortage.

Now, the school district is getting creative with money left over by unfilled positions in hopes it will pay dividends in the future.

We’ve seen a host of incentives amid the pandemic. There have been incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, there’s an incentive to stay in your job if you’re a staff member at Hartford Public Schools.

“It’s a strategy that while it feels short-term, it’s actually setting us up for long-term success for our students,” Hartford Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said.

The past two years have been challenging in public education. Central to the crisis is staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic. Now, in an effort to retain teachers and staff, and show appreciation for those who worked harder, Hartford Public Schools is getting creative with unused salary money and state and federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“This year, we were only able to staff 75% of our vacancies,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “For example, our students that require special education support, we still have about 45 vacancies in that area. That’s just one of the others that still are vacant. It is a challenge. Not only for staff, it means that staff that are in schools have to dig in deeper and support in those areas and our students are also not able to get the supports that they need to the level that they need and deserve.”

The district is offering bonuses of up to $1,000 for full-time employees this school year. They can even get another $1,000 when they come back next school year and up to $1,500 for referring certified employees.

“We’re hoping that across all positions, that our staff become ambassadors and do refer their colleagues to HPS,” Torres-Rodriguez said.

Summer school workers will also get bonuses and some educators will be given $250 to personalize their workspace.

The bonuses don’t kick in until the end of the school year.