FAIRFIELD (CBS13) — Three days into the new school year and the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District is still short 12 teachers, including seven open positions for special education teachers.

There are 2,500 special education students in the district, many with learning disabilities and limited motor skills.

“It’s really more of a calling at some levels and not just a job,” said Robert A. Martinez, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for the district.

Martinez says qualified substitutes, many of them former teachers, are filling the gaps as the district works to help teachers through the credential process. The good news, he says, is teachers can also work in the classroom while completing credential courses.

“But we haven’t had as many individuals take advantage of those teaching programs, which has lessened the number of individuals who are completely qualified to do these jobs,” he said.

The district had 170 teaching slots to fill overall this school year, so they are making progress. Teacher turnover last school year was around 15 percent, with many commuting teachers, officials say, finding positions closer to home in Sacramento. But despite the desperate need, Fairfield-Suisun won’t sacrifice safety.

“We do our references checks, we do our fingerprinting,” Martinez said.

Rolling Hills Elementary School parent Tiffany Anderson says so far, so good.

“For my kids, this is their third day of school and they seem to be happy,” she said.

Anderson says she hopes the district considers diversity in its hiring process. The teacher shortage is not a problem for her, unless, she says, it lasts throughout the year.

“Because then nobody is going to actually be committed to helping, or the job,” Anderson said.

Martinez says applicants can apply online on the district’s website. They need a Bachelor’s degree and must pass the California skills test. Starting salary at Fairfield Suisun Unified is around $55,000 a year, which he says is comparable to other districts in the Sacramento area.

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