Gwinnett County seeks to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes

District officials say it’s fully staffed to start the school year

Gwinnett County Public Schools is hiring to fill hundreds of new teaching jobs it recently created to reduce class sizes.

The number of teachers in Gwinnett, Georgia’s largest school district, increased from 12,623 in May to 13,095 in August. Of those teachers, 130 were hired to account for increased enrollment, and 182 were hired to reduce class sizes in the initial budget passed in June.

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The school board passed a budget amendment in July that called for hiring an additional 651 teachers throughout this school year. Jeff Mathews, Gwinnett’s assistant superintendent for leadership development, said some of those teachers will alleviate overcrowding, support an understaffed subject or team teach to create flexibility.

“One of the things we talk about is making sure we look at our students’ needs first so we make sure we don’t disrupt (them),” Mathews said. Students may not “want to get a phone call in October or November saying, ‘You’ve got a new teacher.’”

Mathews said the new positions will also help district recruiters get ahead on hiring for the 2023-2024 school year. The district has already filled 160 of the 651 positions.

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Gwinnett currently has a waiver allowing for class sizes to exceed certain state guidelines. District leaders said these waivers are common throughout Georgia.

Many school districts across metro Atlanta and the nation have struggled to fill teacher vacancies.

Gwinnett’s class sizes have been a source of criticism and highlighted as a cause for poor classroom behavior and teacher stress. Multiple candidates for school board listed reducing class sizes as a top priority during their campaigns earlier this year.

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“Teachers need lower class sizes so they can build relationships and meet the needs of individual students,” Brian Westlake, president of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators, said during a recent meeting, citing research from the state’s task force on teacher burnout.