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Prince George’s could face tough school opening next week, CEO says

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Maryland’s second-largest school district faces around 900 vacancies among its 10,000 employees, which could force it to combine course of the next school year.

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson wrote to the school system community this week in a back-to-school letter, detailing the ongoing challenges of the school system, particularly the filling of vacant positions.

The district — which educates about 130,000 students — is one of many school systems scrambling to fill teaching positions, as well as staff positions, including bus drivers. Statewide, the most critical shortages are in specific subjects, like math and English, in middle and high schools and in special education, according to data presented at a recent Maryland State Board meeting. of Education.

The vacancies follow a high turnover rate in the past school year that saw resignations and retirements as educators across the country left the profession, citing pandemic burnout, a lack of respect in the classroom and persistently low wages. The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association teachers’ union had been at an impasse with the district for months over such issues before reaching a tentative agreement last week.

Just over half of the school system’s projected teacher vacancies have been filled, Goldson said, with an average of about 4.5 openings at each of its 200 schools. A spokeswoman for the school system added that its main areas to be filled are special education, math, science, primary education and early childhood programs. Overall, the school system is about 91% staffed.

“As a result, we are reviewing class sizes at all levels and combining classes when possible, especially in under-enrolled classes,” Goldson said.

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The school system plans to deploy substitute teachers to fill in the gaps. Goldson said substitute teachers’ pay has been increased, in some cases up to $100 more per day than last year. The system has campaigns targeting retired teachers and new substitutes and provides for additional remuneration for teachers who provide additional lessons.

Danielle LeClair, mother of a rising eighth grader at University Park, said when she saw Goldson’s letter she wondered, ‘What is this going to mean for children in special education? or disabled, as well as mental health issues? LeClair said she was concerned that her daughter, who has an individualized education program that spells out the special education services a student should receive, nor will she get the education to which she is legally entitled.

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Goldson also warned families using the bus system to expect delays during the first few weeks of school as new bus drivers acclimate to the routes. The school system is also looking for about 165 bus drivers, starting Thursday, according to a district spokeswoman. Bell times have been adjusted in some schools to take into account possible late bus arrival times.

Earlier this month, schools in Prince George reinstated a mask requirement because the county has a high covid transmission rate according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But positivity rates are down, Goldson said, and she plans to loosen the mandate “in the coming weeks.”

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