Page 4 LEAD PHOTO Manassas schools.jpg

Baldwin Intermediate School Principal Juliet Finnegan gets ready to welcome her Manassas City Public Schools students on their first day Wednesday morning.

Virginia’s three largest school divisions kick off the new school year this week, with Fairfax and Prince William students returning today and Loudoun County students starting Thursday.

In a note to the school community Friday night, Prince William County Schools Superintendent LaTayna McDade said students, parents and staff are heading into the school year with “energy and excitement.”

The new year begins with nationwide teacher shortages, and vacancies across Virginia likely in the thousands, Virginia Mercury reports. But local school divisions say they are close to fully staffed.

McDade said the school division – the state’s second largest behind Fairfax – has hired more than 1,600 new employees for the school year, including 1,000 new certified staff. As the new year begins, the school system had 168 vacant positions, comparable to the start of last school year.

Fairfax County’s new superintendent of schools says the county school system is nearly full as classes begin.

“Our classrooms are 97 percent staffed and ready to welcome our students back from summer break,” Michelle Reid said in a July 28 message to parents.

Loudoun County students return to class this Thursday, Aug. 25, as the state’s third largest school division continues to hire staff, with close to 98 percent of vacant positions filled as of last week.

Students in Manassas Park and Alexandria also return to class today. Other area school divisions have already returned, with Manassas, Fauquier and Stafford County students starting Aug. 9 and 10. Arlington County students are going back later than most, with classes beginning Aug. 29.

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