Resource staff and vice principals in Northern Saskatchewan have had to leave their regular duties to fill teaching gaps due to a shortage of teachers.

“From my observations — doing this over 10 years, in terms of hiring — it’s unusual,” said Jason Young, the director of the Northern Lights School Division, adding he is unsure about what is contributing to the shortage.

As of Thursday the division had 13 vacancies, with Sandy Bay and La Loche schools experiencing the least interest.

“Parents should be very concerned if their student is going to school and proper resources haven’t been allocated to make sure their educational needs are being met,” said Patrick Maze, director of Saskatchewan’s Teachers’ Federation.

In an email to CTV News, the provincial government said the Ministry of Education is working with the school division to employ more teachers.

“The Ministry of Education has offered to continue discussions and to support Northern Lights School Division with their recruitment and retention plans to fill these positions as quickly as possible.”

Enrollment at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education is growing.

“In the College of Education and our Indian Teacher Education Program, the numbers are up. So we’re obviously getting people here interested,” said Jay Wilson, department head of curriculum studies.

Changes in other provinces might be drying up the Northern Saskatchewan talent pool, he said.

“I know in Ontario, they've reduced the amount of teacher training programs there. People would come from Ontario and take positions in the north … that’s maybe the shift we're seeing from Ontario."

Maze said the teaching shortage can be attributed to changes in The Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP). The provincially-funded program was designed to get people from the north to teach in their own community. The program was scaled back last year as part of budget cuts.

“It was kind of a snap decision that was intended on saving government money, and I think they're paying in the long run for it now,” Maze explained.

The Northern Lights School Division budgeted for 331 full-time teachers for the 2018-19 school year.