There is a tremendous amount of teacher vacancies this year in Oklahoma as the new school year started.

Oklahoma's public schools started the new year with 536 teacher vacancies and at least half of the state's districts have said they will increase class sizes in response to a shortage of certified teachers.

In its third annual district survey, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association put out more numbers on what many educators have called a crisis when it comes to finding traditionally trained teachers to fill classroom positions.

Around 300 Oklahoma school districts responded to the survey, representing nearly 78 percent of the state's public school enrollment.

The survey, which was released Tuesday morning, found over 500 teaching vacancies as of Aug. 1; Two-thirds of districts reported hiring was worse than last year; and one-third of districts anticipate offering fewer courses this year.

Last year's survey showed Oklahoma districts had cut 1,530 teaching positions and 1,351 staff positions. Tuesday's survey revealed another 480 teaching positions and 444 support positions were eliminated this year.

"The survey shows that our teacher shortage crisis is continuing to grow," said Shawn Hime, executive director of the OSSBA. "I don't think anyone is surprised by that because (the state) didn't make any changes to funding schools or changing teacher compensation packages."

As schools struggle to find enough traditionally certified teachers to fill vacancies, many are turning to emergency certified teachers, which are educators who lack a teaching certificate.

At its next meeting, the state Board of Education is expected to approve another batch of emergency certificates that will break last year's record of 1,160.

The number of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma has grown by more than 10 times the amount approved just four years earlier.