It’s being described as a crisis situation in northern schools.

The Northern Lights School Division is short 15 teachers, forcing education officials there to seek alternative measures in how it delivers education to students.

The School Division has hired remote teachers as it struggles to recruit on-site staff. An Educational Assistant would be in the classroom with students to ensure supervision and follow-up, while a teacher offers the lesson through a computer.

Director of Education Jason Young said one such teacher is based in Ontario. “Its really beneficial for us. Its actually allowed us to keep one school open, and another one near collapse because of the number of teachers we were short there,” explained Young.

He is referring to the Dene High School in La Loche. Teachers were in such demand there that officials were considering only offering education to students in Grades 7 to 9 or 10 to 12.

Young predicts that the distant teaching model currently being implemented will continue through the rest of the year. He assures that he does not anticipate any classroom disruptions through June.

The School Division historically faces somewhat of a teacher shortage at the beginning of the year, but has been able to recruit. Last September, the Division was short 20 teachers.

Looking to the long-term strategy for filling positions Young will turn to northern teacher-graduates.

“We will be approaching them and offering them jobs to teach in the north. Trained in the North and will likely teach in the North,” Young said.

Young estimates there will be approximately 44 northern graduates the School Division will approach. Taking a northern strategy for recruitment may be his best option.

Young states that employees are in the driver’s seat, given the industry shortage nationwide. He admits that teachers can demand employment packages suitable to their needs, given the supply of teachers is low, relative to positions. Young said officials will have to be innovative with their employment packages to entice teachers to fill positions.

However, on-the-ground staff are the one’s bearing the brunt of the shortage, with concerns of burnout. Young is not naive to this, but commends the staff for coming together in facing this challenge. “Teachers tell me that they love what they do. I’m inspired by them for doing what they need to do to support our kids.”