NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The teacher shortage continues to be an ongoing issue both nationally and here in Connecticut, yet in New Haven, schools are testing a potential solution — using college students to fill vacancies.

New Haven Public Schools is in week four of the 2023-24 school year, and is still looking to staff its classrooms.

“It is a challenge as we started the school year,” Sarah Diggs, coordinator of recruitment and retention for NHPS, said. “We started with around 90 teacher vacancies in the district.”

That number has improved slightly since the first day of school, but there’s still work to do.

As of Monday, Diggs said the district has 77 teacher vacancies, mainly in special education, math and science.

“We’re trying to get creative,” Diggs said. “This is a time for us to get innovative and lean into our partners.“

The district is working directly with Quinnipiac University students to help alleviate the teacher shortage.

Diggs said Anne Dichele, dean of the school of education at Quinnipiac University, reached out to help.

“We have partnered with them to find undergrad and grad students who are science majors or getting a Ph.D. in science, to come and be substitute teachers for our science vacancies,” Diggs said.

There’s currently a pool of 100 substitute teachers in the district spread out over 41 schools.

By partnering with local colleges and universities, Diggs hopes to grow that number of substitute teachers, with the goal of building a future teacher pipeline.  

“We want to make sure that while we kind of do triage so to speak…that we are continuing to develop our bench,” she said.

So far, NHPS has 10 Quinnipiac University science students lined up to start subbing as soon as next week.

The school district has also reached out to the University of New Haven, Albertus Magnus College and Southern Connecticut State University to see if they’d be interested in joining the initiative.