Prince George’s could face a difficult school reopening next week, the CEO says

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Maryland’s second largest school district is upon us around 900 vacancies among its 10,000 employees, which could force it to merge classes in the coming school year.

Monica Goldson, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, wrote in a back-to-school letter to the school system community this week detailing it ongoing challenges in the school system, especially when it comes to staffing.

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 biggest shortages are in specific subjects, such as math and English, in middle and high schools, and in special education, according to data presented at a recent meeting of the Maryland State Board of Education.

The job offers follow a high turnover last school year, which saw layoffs and retirements as educators across the country left the profession, citing pandemic exhaustion, lack of respect in the classroom and consistently low pay. The Prince George’s County Educators Association The teachers union was at an impasse with the district over such issues for months before reaching a tentative agreement last week.

Just over half of the school system’s expected teaching positions have been filled, Goldson said, with an average of about 4.5 vacancies at each of its 200 schools. A spokeswoman for the school system added that the key areas to fill are special education, math, science, elementary education and early childhood programs. Overall, the school system is staffed at around 91 percent.

“As a result, we are reviewing class sizes at all levels and combining classes where practical, particularly in understaffed classes,” Goldson said.

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The school system plans to use substitute teachers to fill the gaps. Goldson said substitute teachers’ salaries have increased, in some cases up to $100 more per day than last year. The system has campaigns aimed at retired and new teachers substitutes and plans additional compensation for teachers who cover additional classes.

Danielle LeClair, a mother of an aspiring eighth grader at University Park, said when she saw Goldson’s letter she wondered, “What does this mean for children in special education or with disabilities and mental health issues? ” LeClair said she is concerned that her daughter, who has an individualized education program that specifies the special education services a student must receive, does not get the education to which it is legally entitled.

Montgomery County schools are working to fill hundreds of teaching and staffing positions

Goldson also warned families using the bus system to expect delays in the first few weeks of school as new bus drivers adjust to the routes. According to a district spokeswoman, the school system is also looking for around 165 bus drivers from Thursday. At some schools, bell times have been adjusted to accommodate possible late bus arrivals.

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

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