FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. - Parents are concerned because we are now less than a month away from the first day of school, and many districts in the area are scrambling to fill teacher vacancies.
"It's also worrying because we just came out of the pandemic. And these are kids who have lost a lot of in-person schooling," one parent who has two elementary school children said.
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid says she is working hard to fill those remaining vacancies to ensure that every classroom has a licensed educator.
In a letter recently sent to parents, Dr. Reid says her classrooms are currently 97% staffed.
"I feel like there was already a staff turnover at my kids' schools. So if there's been an increase there is a concern," the mother said.
David Walrod is the president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. Despite Reid's letter addressing the vacancies, Walrod is worried about the upcoming school year.
"That still means that there are hundreds of classrooms that don't have a teacher in them at the moment," he said.
According to the FCPS website, the district employs more than 15,000 teachers — which means there are at least 450 open spots.
Walrod said, "These are the positions that work with some of our neediest students. Teachers that are Title 1 schools, teachers that work with special education students, ESOL students. Those tend to be some of the positions that are hardest to fill."
If the district doesn't fill these positions, Walrod believes they may have to pull staff from elsewhere.
"Folks like math and reading coaches and tech specialists, being asked to cover classes, which means a class is covered, but it means teachers aren't getting the support … Students aren't getting some of the specialized instruction," he explained.
The shortage isn't unique to just Fairfax County. Almost all schools across the Commonwealth need teachers.
In a recent social media post, Alexandria City Public Schools put out a post looking for language and special education teachers.
"The past two years were really difficult," Walrod said. "With the COVID situation, you're starting to see attacks on teachers by certain parts of the population and teachers never get paid as much as comparable professionals in other fields get paid."
The mother of two students tells FOX 5 that she's optimistic.
"I hope we get high-quality teachers. I hope we manage to fill the gap; I know the county is doing their best, but they need teachers to do their best," she said.
Dr. Reid's full letter can be read via the Fairfax County Public Schools website.