CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The Charleston County School District (CCSD) is preparing to hold a hiring fair that will help with staffing needs for the 2023-2024 school year. You can find details about the fair here.

“We want to hire as many people as we can as quickly as possible. We want to stay ahead of the game. There are people who are going to be interviewed for positions that we already know will be open next year. We will be offering contracts for next year,” said Whitney Spain, the Elementary Teacher Recruiter for CCSD.

As of Tuesday, 340 people had signed up for the event. That number is lower than years past.

According to CCSD, there have been occasions where as many as 700 people have come to a hiring event.

“A lot of them are from the community and they want to give back,” said Eric Stallings, the Assistant Director for CCSD’s Pathways to Teaching.

But, hesitations about the starting salary for teachers turns people away.

“You have teacher pay, the cost of living when it comes to housing and working in a different area and living in another area,” said Stallings.

The district does pay starting teachers around 43,000 dollars a year, which is more than what’s mandated by the state.

“This year the state implemented a starting salary of 40,000 dollars. I understand that 42,500 dollars is being recommended for next year coming from the governor’s budget,” said Bill Briggman, the districts Chief Human Resources Officer. “The goal by 2026 is for starting teacher pay to be around 50,000 dollars.”

The direction from Governor Henry McMaster and State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver to increase starting salaries will drive conversations at the district level according to Briggman.

Other options with using money from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) for increasing teacher pay are on the table for a temporary fix.

“I’ve certainty brought that up to our CFO and our Superintendent, with the understanding that is soft money and it’s not there forever,” said Briggman.

Other steps to help teachers are in the works as well. CCSD is trying to work with apartment complexes to set aside units for teachers.

Briggman wants to lobby for attainable housing across the county, but only sees increasing teacher pay as the best way to attract more educators.

“I am in favor of affordable housing,” said Briggman. “A first year teacher on 43,000 dollars would most likely not get approved by an apartment complex to rent one of their one bedrooms.”

Alternative certification programs, like Teach Charleston and Men of Charleston Teach, have yielded about 100 new teachers in a year’s time.

“Alternative certification pathways offer a different outlook and perspective when it comes to diverse candidates,” said Stallings.