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City still has hundreds of teacher vacancies

Baltimore school officials are working to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies in the weeks before the school year starts, according to information presented to the school board Tuesday.

With less than one month before the first day of school Aug. 25, the district was actively recruiting teachers to fill 211 vacancies. The high-need areas are in science, math, and special education.

The city's number of vacancies far exceeds other area districts. In Baltimore County, which recently held a large job fair, officials reported 32 teacher vacancies, and Anne Arundel currently has 88.

City school officials did not respond to inquiries about this year's vacancies.

It is not unusual for the city school system to start the school year a few dozen teachers short.

Two years ago, the city opened with 87 vacancies, and at the time officials said it was a function of the district's philosophy of autonomy — in the city, principals are responsible for hiring their own staff — and enrollment fluctuations that schools can encounter at the beginning of the year. The city tapped substitutes to fill the gaps.

The district is also working to schedule all students by the beginning of the school year. As of the end of July, about 54 percent of students in middle and high schools were scheduled in at least six classes. The goal is to have 95 percent by Friday.

School officials said in the memo that while it's common for new students to not be fully scheduled by the first day, the district was working to ensure that all were and "every minute of instruction counts and students are off to a strong start."

The board will also receive updates Tuesday on other back-to-school preparations in areas such as student safety and student scheduling.

Of note, Baltimore city police will be monitoring a handful of middle and high schools "to ensure safe pathways for students to and from school" in the first two weeks of classes.

Officials said this is a practice that dates back at least seven years, where city police commanders have selected certain schools to meet and greet principals and establish relationships between schools and the precincts in those areas.

The district will also roll out new safety measures for those who visit schools and the central office this year.

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