ROCHESTER, Minn. — Rochester area school districts say they're dealing with an acute shortage of substitute teachers.

Principals and superintendents are pitching in to cover the vacancies. Full-time teachers are giving up their preparation time to cover classes that don't have an instructor.

Kingsland High School Principal Jim Hecimovich said he's had to fill in for sick teachers regularly due to the substitute shortage.

I don't remember it being this tight," Hecimovich said. "I had to sub, back when I was an elementary principal, once in a blue moon. Now, it's a regular occurrence."

Educators describe the shortage as a statewide problem, but one that is being more acutely felt in southeastern Minnesota, where there are plenty of job opportunities.

"The job market has become so good in the Rochester area, people are not relying on substitute teaching but are finding different careers," Byron Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Elstad told the Post-Bulletin ( ).

Education leaders say the shortage reflects a deeper issue. There are simply fewer people in teaching.

Hecimovich said there's an untapped resource of potential subs — people with four-year degrees, fresh out of college, looking to make some money. It's just a matter of making them aware of the opportunity. Even without a teaching license, a college graduate can become a substitute teacher under the state's short-call licensure process.

"It clearly would benefit everybody if the word was out there," Hecimovich said.