NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) — A shortage of substitute teachers in western Nebraska is making it difficult to keep classrooms staffed when regular teachers are away.

KNOP-TV in North Platte reports that area school districts have seen a drop in substitute teachers over the last few years. School districts in North Platte and Hershey say they're relying heavily on retired teachers to fill the gaps.

North Platte Associate Superintendent Tami Eshleman says fewer students are graduating into the education field in Nebraska and nationwide.

Residents who want to serve as substitute teachers can qualify for a local substitute teaching permit if they meet certain criteria. Those who are interested can apply for free through the Nebraska Department of Education.

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Information from: KNOP-TV, http://www.knopnews2.com