FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Students in Fairfax County head back to class on Monday. The question on many parents' minds is will there be enough teachers? Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid says after a summer of shortages, they are now 99% staffed.
Parent Anne Doe says she understands what FCPS is facing.
"I understand that the school system is facing a challenge. There's a shortage of teachers because of COVID, and because of the stress of the last couple of years."
Doe's two kids are entering second and fourth grades, and she was once a student in Fairfax County herself.
"I went through the whole school system from kindergarten all the way through high school. It's a great school system, but I do understand the funding challenges in the last five, 10 years, as well as COVID impacting teachers wanting to stay," Doe said.
After a summer of shortages and job fairs across the D.C. region, Fairfax County sent an email to parents saying they are nearly fully staffed.
Part of the approach is to pull educators from the central office to fill in the gaps. About 40 of them are taking care of the vacancies as the hiring process continues.
The district is also relying on the new residency program which allows teachers to start work early as they complete the final requirements.
"Most of our teachers are going to be properly licensed and endorsed," Dr. Sherry Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Human Resources, said during a recent meeting. "We may have individuals who may be working to complete a few classes that are needed for endorsement while others may have an expired license they're working to renew."
Out of the 15,000 teachers employed by FCPS, about 150 of them are part of the residency program.
But a look at Fairfax County openings still shows a lot. By our count, more than 350.
The county says that where they still have vacancies, central office staff with teacher licenses will be asked to cover until a permanent teacher has been hired.
Superintendent Reid held virtual information sessions for parents on Wednesday and Thursday. She emphasized how the district is on the right track.
"We're really doing everything we can to protect Fairfax County school class sizes," Reid said.
"The superintendent is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach," said Leslie Houston, president of the Fairfax Education Association. "I would absolutely assume that it's a last resort because they're doing everything they can to ensure that every student has a teacher -- a certified teacher -- in front of them."
Right now there are no district-wide plans to combine classes and class sizes remain at state standards. That's a good thing for parents and teachers.
For Doe, she knows that everyone is doing the best they can for kids.
"I think the county is doing what they can to fill that gap vs doubling up," she said.