The Halifax Regional School Board has just about fixed its French teacher shortage.

Heading into Labour Day, the province's largest school board was still in need of more than 30 teachers who could lead core French and immersion classes. As of Wednesday, the board was down to advertising for just four spots.

"We're talking about percentage jobs now, so they might be at a 20 per cent job or a 40 per cent job," said board spokesperson Doug Hadley.

Calls from across Canada

Hadley said it's not uncommon for boards to start the year with vacancies. Last year, the Halifax board was short guidance counsellors when school started, he said.

This time around, Hadley said the board has continued advertising on job boards, sent a message to staff gauging interest in taking on the roles and asking them to share the openings and also spread the word via media.

"We've been getting calls from people around the country who may be interested in coming to Halifax and, in fact, we've been filling positions with people from outside of the province."

How to fill the gaps

In the meantime, Hadley said schools might use retired French teachers as substitutes, draw from the regular sub pool or potentially reassign someone within the school who has the necessary skills.

"We feel that at this point, given that we've been able to reduce those positions systematically, that we'll be able to fill them all."

There is another option, however, when a school has a vacancy that can't be filled.

Looking outside teaching ranks

An article in the Teachers' Provincial Agreement allows the Education Department to permit someone who doesn't have a teacher's certificate to work in a classroom, as long as the person has the subject matter expertise required for the job. That can include education students pending graduation.

That provision is being used at five of the province's eight school boards right now.

Jeremy Brown, the Education Department's director of teacher certification, said every year the option is used, usually to fill substitute jobs and other "highly specialized positions" such as school psychologists, speech language pathologists and skilled trade workers.

"A lot of these people are on their path to getting certified and may receive their certification later," said Brown.

13 permits this year

When boards can't fill a role, they identify someone who fits the need and that person applies, showing they have the qualifications and necessary background checks. The application is passed through various levels for review before reaching Brown's desk for ultimate approval.

Brown said this year he's signed off on 13 permits: five for substitutes and the rest for specialized roles, such as school psychologists and speech language pathologists.