PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence students head back to school after the long Labor Day weekend, but not every classroom will have a permanent teacher.
The school district still has 119 staff vacancies as of Friday, including at least 90 teachers, according to school department spokesperson Emily Martineau.
Class starts on Tuesday at Providence’s 41 public schools.
The number of vacancies has climbed since Aug. 15, when interim Superintendent Frances Gallo told WPRI 12 that the district was rushing to hire 84 teachers ahead of the new school year.
Martineau said the reason the number has increased in the last two weeks is because while new teachers have been hired, some have also resigned.
In total, Martineau said there have been 97 resignations and 28 retirements since last school year.
The number of teachers not returning this school year is similar to last summer, when Martineau said there were 87 resignations and 45 retirements.
She broke down the 119 vacancies as follows: 90 classroom positions, 14 district-level positions, 4 departmental teacher leaders and 11 non-union jobs. It was not immediately clear what types of positions the non-union openings are for.
The teacher vacancies represent about 5% of the roughly 2,000 teachers in Providence schools.
Gallo told WPRI 12 on Wednesday that she believed all the elementary school classes were covered, and said she wasn’t anticipating any “split classes” for the first weeks of school. That situation arises when students are split into different classrooms because there is no substitute available for their own class.
Gallo said the district is still having trouble finding certified teachers for certain specific topics, like high school physics.
As of Friday, Martineau said the district has 256 substitutes in the “pool,” including 102 retirees, 97 per diem, and 57 long-term substitutes.
“Our Human Capital department continues to interview and hire more candidates,” Martineau said.
In the Johns Hopkins University report released in June, former Superintendent Chris Maher told the researchers there was a “massive teacher shortage,” with not enough teachers in the pipeline to replace those who are leaving.
The report also detailed problems with teacher absenteeism, leading to the use of those “split classrooms.”
Data released by the school department earlier this month showed that 500 teachers were “chronically absent” last school year, missing more than 10% of the school year for a variety of reasons.